A whopping 11.5 million documents (2.6 terabytes of the stuff) have been leaked to German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung– the biggest leak in the history of journalism. The documents came from a Panamanian law firm named Mossack Fonseca, reportedly one of the biggest creators of shell companies in the world (companies that sell nothing, created solely to launder money, avoid sanctions and evade taxes), and spans decades- from 1977 to 2015.
According to the German paper, the documents provide “provides rare insights into a world that can only exist in the shadows. It proves how a global industry led by major banks, legal firms, and asset management companies secretly manages the estates of the world’s rich and famous: from politicians, FIFA officials, fraudsters and drug smugglers, to celebrities and professional athletes.”
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) April 3, 2016
Süddeutsche Zeitung noted that the anonymous source “wanted neither financial compensation nor anything else in return.”
The German paper collaborated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in an investigation that involved more than 370 journalists from 107 news organisations for a year.
“I think the leak will prove to be probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents,” said Gerard Ryle, ICIJ director, to the BBC.
A link to the ICIJ search function.
The leaks include details on 214,000 offshore entities; over 140 politicians have, so far, been directly implicated, including 12 current or former heads of state, from the king of Saudi Arabia to the prime minister of Iceland to the president of Ukraine.
The relatives and associates of those in power have also been linked to some of these entities, from the associates of the Russian president (Sergey Roldugin, Arkady Rotenberg), to the father of the British PM (Ian Cameron) to the cousins of the Syrian president (brothers Rami and Hafez Makhlouf )- the papers seem to indicate that corruption is a global phenomenon.
For its part, Mosssack Fonesca has released a response stating that it conducts thorough due-diligence, “one that in every case meets and quite often exceeds all relevant local rules, regulations and standards to which we and others are bound,” and is simply helping its clients to incorporate companies.
One of the company’s founders, Ramon Fonseca, has called the revelations “a crime”.
“This is a crime, a felony,” he said to AP. “Privacy is a fundamental human right that is being eroded more and more in the modern world. Each person has a right to privacy, whether they are a king or a beggar.”
The ICIJ notes that “29 billionaires from Forbes list of top 500 Richest” have information in the database.
He called the revelations “an attack on Panama, because certain countries don’t like it that we are so competitive in attracting companies.”
A map that visually depicts where the shell companies are located:
“Banks, law firms and other offshore players often fail to follow legal requirements to make sure clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption,” the ICIJ said on its website. “The files show that these fixers and middlemen protect themselves and their clients by concealing suspect transactions. In some instances, they work to head off official investigations by backdating and destroying documents“.
Sources: ICIJ, VOX, NPR, BBC, Reddit, RT, Forbes, CNA, Business Insider, Fusion
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