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Panama Papers: The City of Sydney Connection

BY JORDAN FERMANIS

Last week’s release of the so-called ‘Panama Papers’ constituted one of the largest releases of documents to the public in history. 2.6TB of data and 11.5 million files from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co. The leak has embroiled the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin, British PM David Cameron (by way of his father) and more than 800 Australians. The leak has already claimed victims with the Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð resigning in the aftermath.

Closer to home, the ABC’s Four Corners program last week revealed that the Australian company Wilson Security had been caught up in the scandal by way of Thomas and Raymond Kwok. Two brothers from Hong Kong who were directors of Wilson Offshore Group Holdings (BVI) Limited, the company with majority ownership of Wilson Security. In 2012 the Kwok brothers were arrested on accusations of bribery by Hong Kong’s anti-corruption agency.

The connection between the Kwok brothers and the Australian security company has sparked corruption concerns due to Wilson Security’s numerous contracts with the Australian government. The contracts include the detention facilities on Nauru and Manus Island as well as The Australian Taxation Office.

The company has already received complaints over negligence and incompetence in carrying out its contract in Nauru. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young accused Wilson Security of ‘spying’ on her during a visit to Nauru last year. Senator Hanson-Young has called for the Federal government to withdraw its contractual links with Wilson Security at the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island in light of the Four Corners investigation.

These contract links with Wilson Security extend to the City of Sydney Council. In a statement made by a City of Sydney spokesperson there are confirmed contract links with the company,

“The City currently has three contracts with Wilson entities.”

“These contracts expire on 1 June 2016, 31 March 2019 and 20 June 2020.”

“All City contracts are managed by staff to ensure that the contractors meet their obligations and comply with the terms of each contract.” A spokesperson said.

City of Sydney Councillor Linda Scott said that the contractual connections between the City of Sydney and Wilson Security must be put to question.

“The enormous revelations about some alleged tax avoid schemes and the implications are being felt across the world” Clr Scott said.

Wilson Security has denied any wrongdoing. The company maintains that the Kwok brothers were never directors of Wilson Security and that any suggestion of tax avoidance is false.

Clr Scott said that her questions to the council have wider implications.

“It’s important that the City of Sydney has ethical procurement. And of course as a government, also important that we make sure that revenue collection is done fairly and equitably.”

“We know that tax avoidance robs the Australian community of funding for schools and hospitals and parks and local government funding. So it’s incredibly important that all our procurement is done in the most ethical way possible. And that we are doing our best to ensure that things are being done legally.” Clr Scott said.

Clr Scott said if the City of Sydney had obtained contracts unethically from the firm they would need to look at their options.

“We would need to look at the options available to us in order to examine what our future avenues are.”

Wilson Security was contacted for comment but failed to respond in time.

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