NEWS
04/07/2016 08:53 EDT | Updated 04/08/2017 01:12 EDT

The Latest: Former Ferrari CEO says no off-shore accounts

PARIS — The Latest on the publication by a coalition of media outlets of an investigation into offshore financial dealings by the rich and famous (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, one of Italy's most visible corporate managers, says he has no off-shore account in Panama.

Montezemolo said at a UniCredit bank board meeting on Thursday that a check of his records indicated that references to him in a database of leaked off-shore accounts were related to "proposals by my financial consultants about investments that were never made."

He added: "I can therefore confirm that I don't own any off-shore company, or any foreign account, and above all, I have done nothing wrong."

Montezemolo's name turned up in a media investigation of accounts set up by a Panama-based law firm. The documents indicate a series contracts that listed Montezemolo, who is currently Alitalia chairman and on the UniCredit board, as head of a Panama-based company called Lenville set up in 2007. He was chairman of Fiat, CEO of Ferrari and head of Italy's Confindustria industrial lobby at the time.

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2:25 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied having any links to offshore accounts and is describing the Panama Papersdocument leaks scandal as part of Western efforts to weaken Russia.

Putin, speaking Thursday at a media forum in St. Petersburg, says even though his name didn't figure in any of the documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm, Western media pushed the claimsof his involvementin offshore businesses.

Putin described the allegations as part of the U.S.-led disinformation campaign waged against Russia in order to weaken its government.

Putin said his longtime friend, cellist Sergei Roldugin, who figured in the Panama Papers as the owner of $2 billion in offshore assets, has done nothing wrong. He said he was proud of Roldugin, adding that the musician spent his personal money to advance cultural projects in Russia.

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2:05 p.m.

The European Union's top taxation commissioner is calling on Panama to engage in talks on improving transparency so that it might eventually be taken off a list of non-co-operative tax jurisdictions.

Pierre Moscovici said Panama was listed by the EU as a whole — and separately by 8 of the bloc's 28 nations — as a non-compliant state on tax affairs.

He said that the media revelations linking the central American nation to massive tax fraud were "frankly shocking."

Moscovici said Thursday: "Let's call a spade a spade: non-co-operative jurisdictions are tax havens."

He added that "we have to list them through a common EU blacklist and to be ready to hit them with appropriate sanctions if they refuse to change."

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1:55 p.m.

A member of Dutch bank ABN Amro's supervisory board says he is stepping down with immediate effect after his name appeared in the huge leak of information on offshore companies known as the Panama Papers.

ABN Amro announced the departure of Bert Meerstadt in a brief statement Thursday that made no mention of his reported links to an offshore corporation established in the British Virgin Islands by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which helps create shell companies for the world's rich and famous.

The Dutch bank then issued a personal statement from Meerstadt in which he says he already was in the process of leaving ABN Amro, but was now stepping down immediately, "to prevent any detrimental effects to the bank" after two Dutch newspapers linked him to the company on the British Virgin Islands.

In the statement, Meerstadt says he will not comment on the report in the Financieel Dagblad newspaper, which said that he was listed in March 2001 as a shareholder in a company called Morclan Corporation. Two weeks later, the shares in his name were transferred to a trust office on Guernsey.

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1:05 p.m.

The chief executive of Austrian lender Hypo Landesbank Vorarlberg has resigned after the bank was mentioned in reports about offshore companies.

The bank said Thursday that Michael Grahammer "surprisingly declared his resignation last night."

Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported this week that at least 20 offshore companies had accounts with Hypo Vorarlberg, including one attributed to Gennady Timchenko, a Russian billionaire with longtime personal ties to President Vladimir Putin.

ORF is one of dozens of media outlets worldwide that had access to the so-called Panama Papers, a trove of documents detailing offshore companies of the rich and famous.

Grahammer said in a statement that "media prejudgment" prompted him to resign, but that both he and the bank had acted according within the law.

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12:10 p.m.

Anti-fraud activists are blocking entrances at the Paris headquarters of French bank Societe Generale to protest its alleged involvement in creating offshore accounts, as detailed in the so-called "Panama Papers" reports.

Around 40 protesters physically blocked the main and side entrances of the building in central Paris on Thursday, waving banners that read "Fiscal Fraud, Social Crime."

Dominique Plihot, spokesman for the ATTAC activist group, said he was there "to create public awareness that Societe Generale was among the big banks cited in the documents" released by an international probe of offshore accounts.

French newspaper Le Monde has said the bank created hundreds of offshore companies via Panamian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Societe Generale denies any accusations of fraud and tax evasion and repeated in a statement its commitment to the fight against such activities.

The Associated Press