A Scottish college has said it has “no idea” why a company bearing its name has been exposed in the latest tranche of leaked documents relating to the Panama Papers scandal.
The Scotsman has learned that a firm called South Lanarkshire College Ltd has been registered in an offshore tax haven.
Although details on the company are scarce, the database shows that one of the British Virgin Islands-based firm’s shareholders is a Chinese-based educational institute that has previously worked with the East Kilbride-based public body.
However, a senior executive at South Lanarkshire College said today he had no knowledge of the offshore firm until it was brought to his attention by The Scotsman.
The details, revealed as part of a huge database of documents linked to more than 200,000 offshore accounts, show that South Lanarkshire College Ltd was incorporated in September 2007.
The database, compiled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), reveals it is registered at a PO Box address in Tortola, the largest island in the Caribbean archipelago. The address is linked to more than 36,000 other entities, the ICIJ database states.
According to the file, a company called Delter Business Institute Ltd has been a shareholder in South Lanarkshire College Ltd since June 2008, with an individual named Bing Liang listed as a director between 2007 and the following year. It is understood Mr Liang used to work with Delter.
Keith McAllister, head of finance at South Lanarkshire College, which has over 3,000 full-time equivalent students, said it last dealt with Delter in 2011 when they acted as “educational agents for Chinese students who wished to come to the UK to study.” He explained that Delter “has no financial interest in the college whatsoever and never has done.”
Mr McAllister said the college had no other dealings with Delter outwith China and that it has not had any relationship with Bing Liang since 2011.
Asked why the company had appeared in the database, which went public yesterday evening, Mr McAllister said: “We have no knowledge of the existence of an organisation called South Lanarkshire College Ltd and thus can have no idea why it has appeared in the Panama Papers database.”
He added that the college has “no link” to the company in question and that the institution “has no offshore interests whatsoever.”
The new datas released by the ICIJ contains basic corporate information about companies, trusts and foundations set up in 21 jurisdictions including Hong Kong and the US state of Nevada. The data was obtained from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which said it was hacked.
Users can search the data and see the networks involving the offshore companies, including, where available, Mossack Fonseca’s internal records of the true owners.
Information and documents on bank accounts, phone numbers and emails have been removed from the database.
The ICIJ said it was putting the information online “in the public interest” as “a careful release of basic corporate information” as it builds on an earlier database of offshore entities.