Papers put heat on Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull, Australia's Prime Minister and a self-made multi-millionaire, has been named in the Panama Papers as director of an offshore gold prospecting company in a damaging revelation that emerged in the midst of a tight election campaign.

A front-page story in the Australian Financial Review yesterday revealed that Turnbull, a former investment banker, was a former director of a British Virgin Islands company set up in the 1990s by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca as part of a plan to develop an A$20 billion ($21.5 billion) gold mine in Siberia.

The mining venture reportedly made donations to Russian politicians while seeking a stake in the mine.

The Opposition pounced on the claims, insisting that the Prime Minister had "questions to answer".

"This is a man who is the Prime Minister of the country ... and he should provide a full and frank explanation of his involvement in this company which was established in a tax haven," said Penny Wong, a Labor MP.

"We shouldn't have to wait for a paper to run a story about the Prime Minister's involvement in this company. The Prime Minister should be full and frank with the Australian people about his business affairs."

The report was based on details that were not included in the publicly available searchable database of the Panama Papers. There was no suggestion that Turnbull acted improperly.

Turnbull's spokesman said the Prime Minister was not aware the company was administered by Mossack Fonseca or that it made donations to Russian politicians.

The firm has been at the centre of a huge leak of offshore financial data which has previously led to embarrassing revelations about the tax affairs of associates and relatives of world leaders including British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's President Xi Jinping.

Arthur Sinodinos, an MP in Turnbull's Liberal party, dismissed the latest revelation as "old news".

"That is a dead horse being flogged - it's a 20-year-old matter," he told ABC Radio.

"They just want to run it because they can. The Fin Review on its front page should be debating policy instead of behaving like a downmarket tabloid."

According to the newspaper report, Turnbull and former New South Wales state Labor Premier Neville Wran became directors in 1993 of an Australian mining company whose subsidiary in the British Virgin Islands had been incorporated by Mossack Fonseca two years earlier.

Malcolm Turnbull

Age: 61.

Lives: Point Piper, an exclusive harbourside suburb in Sydney.

Married: to Australian businesswoman Lucy Turnbull. The couple have two children.

Education: Completed a law degree at Sydney University and studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Early career: Rose to prominence in the 1980s as the brash young lawyer who represented former MI5 operative Peter Wright in the famous Spycatcher case.

Politics: Former head of Australia's republican movement. Socially progressive and a strong supporter of gay marriage.

Popularity: High public approval ratings but mistrusted by many in his party, particularly among the more conservative wing.

Did you know? He's very, very wealthy. He was recently called "the $100 million man who would be PM" in the Sydney media.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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