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Nothing to see here: PM dismisses Panama Papers connection

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Malcolm Turnbull insists there was no impropriety around his association with a British Virgin Islands company set up to exploit a Siberian gold prospect.

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The prime minister is named in the Panama Papers as a former director of Star Technology Services Limited, a company incorporated by tax haven law firm Mossack Fonseca.

“There is nothing new here. The company concerned was a wholly owned subsidiary of a publicly listed Australian company,” he told reporters in Melbourne today.

Turnbull was asked if the company had paid its fair share of tax in Australia.

“Had it made any profits which it did not, regrettably, it certainly would have paid tax in Australia,” he said.

“Obviously you haven’t studied the accounts of the company concerned.”

Earlier Labor demanded a full and frank response to the revelations, outlined in the Australian Financial Review.

“We’ve got a prime minister who now seems to have some very sharp questions to answer,” deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said.

Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos likened the revelations to a “dead horse being flogged”.

Turnbull said his involvement was “very, very well known and, as the article acknowledges, there’s no suggestion of any impropriety at all”.

Back in 2014, Mr Turnbull recalled his association with Star Technology Services following the death of former NSW Labor premier Neville Wran.

Both men were appointed directors of the company in 1993.

In a condolence speech to parliament, Turnbull said the pair had “some amazing adventures” together.

“At one point we were financing a gold project in Siberia. Neville came on one trip to Siberia, and at the same time we had another gold project in Ghana,” he said.

“He took me aside after all these bizarre people we encountered in Siberia – large men with guns and all this stuff. I thought it was pretty frightening.

“He took me aside and said, ‘Son, here is the deal: you do Russia, I will do Africa.’ So I commuted to Siberia and Neville commuted to Ghana.”

A spokesman for Turnbull said Star Technology Services was incorporated by Mossack Fonseca – the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers controversy – but not administered by it.

It’s claimed the company made donations to Russian politicians before Turnbull became a director.

The prime minister was not aware of any political donations before or during his time as director, his spokesman said.

Mossack Fonseca incorporated the company in November 1991, under the name Green Applied Systems, for mining entrepreneur Ian MacNee.

The name was changed to Star Technology Services in 1992, after Mr MacNee together with a Russian-Australian, Ludmilla Melnikoff, negotiated with Russian politicians for a 34.88 per cent share in a joint venture to develop a $20 billion Siberian gold mine called Sukhoi Log.

AAP

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