…As German Editor says documents published in public interest
Prophet T.B. Joshua, the General Overseer of The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) and his wife Evelyn, own Chillon Consultancy Limited, a company incorporated on June 20, 2006 at the British Virgin Island (BVI), reveals Panama Papers, a cache of 11.5 million leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca database.
According to the report released yesterday, Joshua and his wife own one ordinary share each, although the company, with registration number 1033675, is authorized to issue a maximum “50,000 no par value Shares of a single class.”
The report said it was not clear what businesses the mega prophet transacted with the shell company which has no physical presence in Tortola, the largest and most inhabited island at the British Virgin Island.
Chillon Consultancy Limited uses the office address of its registered agent, Mossack Fonseca (Akara Bldg., 24 De Castro Street, Wickhams Cay 1, Road Town, Tortola) as its contact information in the British Virgin Island, the report added.
Joshua becomes the second Nigerian mega preacher shown to set up offshore companies in tax havens. The media had in 2013 reported Chris Oyakhilome, founder and leader of Christ Embassy, incorporated Gmobile Nigeria Limited, an offshore firm in 2007, at the British Virgin Island.
Meaanwhile, the editor of the German newspaper that broke the Panama Papers story said yesterday he did not know exactly where his team’s source got the information but defended his decision to publish on the basis of the public interest.
Wolfgang Krach, co-editor-in-chief of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, said a source who introduced themselves as “John Doe” contacted the paper a year ago and with an offer of encrypted internal documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
Sueddeutsche, realizing the sheer number of documents to be scrutinized, began working with a consortium of other media organizations before publishing the Panama Papers story that has shone a light on the financial schemes of the world’s elite.
“We don’t know how this source came upon the information,” Krach told Reuters by telephone from his office in Munich. “Mossack Fonseca say themselves ‘we were hacked’, I don’t know if that is the case. I can’t confirm that.”
The head of Mossack Fonseca has denied any wrongdoing, and said his firm has fallen victim to “an international campaign against privacy”. Suddeutsche Zeitung has said it received the documents from the law firm’s database.
The documents cover a period over almost 40 years, from 1977 until last December, and purport to show that some companies domiciled in tax havens were being used for suspected money laundering, arms and drug deals and tax evasion.
“We don’t know if this source got access lawfully or unlawfully, we just don’t know,” Krach said, but he said the provenance of the information was less important than the credibility of the documents and the public interest.
“The decisive question is first of all: is the information that came to us from the source credible? That is the most important point.
And the second point is: is it relevant so that we publish?”
He said the Sueddeutsche had cross-checked thousands of documents against information it had previously received. This quashed any doubt that the Panama Papers might not be genuine.
“To the question, ‘Are these documents genuine?’ Yes they are genuine,” Krach said, adding that some of the information was not of public interest but much was. “And those are the cases about which we have partially reported.”
Asked how he would react if it turned out the source had come across the data by hacking into Mossack Fonseca, Krach said this was a hypothetical question but pointed to the case of Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked top secret information.
“Nonetheless, I think it is completely indisputable that it was valid, correct and even necessary to publish this data,” he said of the Snowden case.