COMPANIES in the Central American tax haven at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal have been buying up flats in Glasgow’s plush west end.

The Sunday Herald has established that three firms in Panama have purchased around £1million worth of property in the upmarket Hillhead area in recent years.

The leak of 11.5million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca exposed how the rich and famous use tax havens to shield their wealth and protect their identities.

The disclosures shed light on the thousands of paper companies created in secrecy locations such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

The Sunday Herald revealed last week that companies registered in Panama owned six sprawling estates in Scotland and 34 commercial developments.

However, the identities of the individuals behind the firms are not known as Panama does not publish details of real directors and shareholders.

Seven of the 34 properties are located in Glasgow and the Sunday Herald has now traced six of them.

In 2013, Mayfair Advisers Corp – based at Omega Building Mezzanine in Panama City – bought two flats in Vinicombe Street for £235,000 each. There is no mortgage on either property.

In August 2014, Mayfair and Ananking Properties S.A each purchased separate flats in the same Ruthven Street tenement for £155,000 each.

Three months later, Alastor Consultants S.A purchased two flats in the same block for an identical price.

As with the Vinicombe Street purchases, no standard security is listed on the properties.

The Open Corporates website, which champions transparency, shows that Mayfair and Alastor have similar office bearers, but these individuals are also linked to thousands of other firms in Panama.

It is unclear who lives in the flats, but two of the three firms applied to the local council for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) license.

Owning property though offshore firms attracted criticism in the early part of the decade after it was revealed that this arrangement could be used to legally avoid stamp duty and capital gains tax.

An owner of such a firm could transfer a property to someone else simply by transferring the shares in the company, rather than engage in a conventional sale.

However, from April 2013, offshore companies owning a UK residential property have to pay extra taxes.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by any of the owners of the Panama-based firms with holdings in Glasgow, but the arrangement has again raised questions about transparency.

Data produced by Registers of Scotland also reveals that 100 properties in Glasgow are owned by firms in the BVI, 12 in the Cayman Islands, 16 in the Channel Islands and 28 in Luxembourg.

The revelations are likely to reignite the debate over whether companies from outside the EU should be blocked from purchasing property in Scotland.

The idea was considered during the recent passage of the Scottish Government’s land reform legislation, but SNP Ministers eventually rejected the plan.

Andy Wightman, a candidate for the Scottish Greens who is a long-standing advocate for land reform, said:

“It is indefensible for land and property to be owned in Scotland by companies based in secrecy jurisdictions about which we can, by definition, know nothing. Scottish Greens will continue to push for an end to this kind of activity and ensure that all land is owned by entities whose identity and affairs are open to public scrutiny.”

Robert Barrington, the Executive Director of Transparency International UK, said:

“The Prime Minister has made a personal commitment to rid the UK of ‘dirty cash’ and is holding a global anti-corruption summit in London on the 12th of May. However, if he wants to be taken seriously, the UK needs to get its own house in order by making public who really owns companies registered in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.”