SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- Seoul's financial watchdog said on Tuesday it will consider opening an investigation into 195 South Koreans who were named in a recently leaked foreign document as being suspected of attempting to avoid taxes by setting up paper companies in offshore tax havens in violation of foreign-exchange laws.
The U.S.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on Monday disclosed nearly 12 million documents leaked from the files of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The "Panama Papers" reportedly carried details of hundreds of thousands of clients and evidence that some companies based in the tax haven were being used mainly for tax evasion. The documents contained clients' financial arrangements from 1977 through as recently as December.
The clients also include 195 individuals who had their residential addresses in South Korea, according to the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS).
"We will consider opening a probe into their deals if the 195 residents are found to be involved in any wrongdoing regarding foreign-exchange laws," an FSS official said. Under foreign exchange laws, local residents are obliged to report to the authorities when they establish a company overseas.
The financial watchdog said it will report the cases suspected of being linked to tax avoidance and disguised transactions to the National Tax Service for further investigation.
Meanwhile, the Financial Consumer Agency (FICA), a consumer rights group, called on prosecutors to take the lead in the investigation into the 195 people in cooperation with the tax agency.
"Those who came forward to report their wrongdoings have avoided steep penalties. They should be dealt with depending on what they gained from the unlawful transactions," FICA President Cho Nam-hee said in a statement.
BTS' J-Hope closes Chicago's Lollapalooza festival
(2nd LD) Kim, Pelosi agree to support efforts for denuclearization of N. Korea
(LEAD) Assembly speaker meets with Pelosi amid heightened Sino-U.S. tensions
Assembly Speaker Kim to meet with U.S. House Speaker Pelosi this week
(LEAD) Yoon's approval rating falls to 28.9 pct
Court recognizes death after drinking with boss as workplace accident
150 front-line Army commandoes to conduct joint training at U.S. Army's National Training Center
Whereabouts of 55 Thai tourists on Jeju unknown
Deputy national security adviser resigns due to health reasons
(2nd LD) S. Korea's new COVID-19 cases above 100,000 for 6th day