Global reaction to Panama Papers: Probes begin, China limits media coverage

China yesterday moved to limit coverage of the "Panama Papers" leaked on Sunday that have exposed a long list of offshore companies set up possibly for tax evasion by some of the world's rich and powerful, including Chinese leaders.

In addition to Chinese President Xi Jinping's brother-in-law, the leaked documents contained the names of family members of Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan, who are in the the current seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, China's most powerful body, reported the BBC.

Chinese journalists were ordered to delete "all content related to the 'Panama Papers' leak case", according to government instructions seen by the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"The documents revealed do have basic political targets," the state-owned Global Times said, adding that Washington had engineered previous information leaks to the media for the aim of sabotaging adversary countries.

The 11.5 million documents called the "Panama Papers", held by Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, were anonymously leaked to German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which then shared them with more than 100 media groups.

Offshore companies are not necessarily illegal but they are often used to secretly move ill-gotten gains abroad.

France, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands are among nations that have commenced investigations following the leak, and some other countries, including the United States, said they were looking into the matter, reported Reuters.

The Switzerland-based Credit Suisse yesterday defended itself against accusations made in the leak, saying it does not endorse offshore accounts for tax avoidance or shady dealings.

Credit Suisse and HSBC were among international banks found in the leak to have requested the most offshore companies for clients.

"The allegations are historical, in some cases dating back 20 years, predating our significant, well-publicised reforms implemented over the last few years," a HSBC spokesman told AFP, in an attempt to distance the bank from the leak.

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