The Panama Papers is the biggest leak of documents in financial history. The saga rages on after red-handed Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson officially resigned from his post overnight.
So what are these Panama Papers? Up until Monday the shady financial dealings of politicians and celebrities was something widely believed but easily dismissed as conspiracy, there was no evidence or paper trail until the leak of the so called Panama Papers, which Edward Snowden calls the “Biggest leak in the history of data journalism.”
For the past 40 years the Panama based law firm Mossack Fonseca operated in complete secrecy working for the wealthy and powerful to hide their money. Assets were disguised behind shell companies in Panama, the British Virgin Islands and other off-shore tax havens so that Mossack Fonseca’s clients could escape taxation and the declaration of their wealth.
It could have gone on out of the eyes of the public, the banks and the government for another 40 years if not for an anonymous source that leaked over 11 million documents, over 2 terabytes of sensitive data relating to the clients and the inner workings of Mossack Fonseca to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The anonymous source did according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung did not ask for any sort of payment and simply wanted the truth to come to light.
The documents leaked also shed light on the process of evading authorities, one email from a Mossack Fonseca employee to a client explained how banks and governments were deceived.
“We may use a natural person who will act as the beneficial owner… and therefore his name will be disclosed to the bank. Since this is a very sensitive matter, fees are quite high.”
Among those implicated are 140 politicians from 50 countries, 12 former and current heads of state are directly implicated as are the family and close associates of another 14. Among these powerful politicians are Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, the king of Saudi Arabia and the Emir of Abu Dhabi.
Vladimir Putin is heavily implicated as well in being involved in a billion dollar money laundering scheme, several off-shore shell companies were owned in name by Russian cellist and school friend of Putin, Sergey Roldugin. The Kremlin waved off the accusations of any involvement on the side of the President as an attempt to sabotage Russia’s political stability.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have put together a complete guide to
the shady financial webs of overseas shell companies and individuals involved on their website