This week, everyone is talking about the 11.4 million confidential documents that were leaked Sunday from a firm in Panama called Mossack Fonseca. The documents, now referred to as the Panama Papers, have shined some light on the shady business of numerous international elite officials.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the Panama Papers after obtaining information from German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The documents were analyzed for over a year by the ICIJ prior to publishing. 140 politicians from more than 50 countries have been linked to Mossack Fonseca since the leak, leading to mass investigations worldwide.
What does this link mean?
Tax havens. Bribery. Fraud. The list goes on. Some of the world’s wealthiest people are said to have used offshore accounts to avoid paying their taxes via Mossack Fonseca’s services.
“Based on a trove of more than 11 million leaked files, the investigation exposes a cast of characters who use offshore companies to facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion, financial fraud and drug trafficking,” according to an article on ICIJ’s website.
- [Former] Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson stepped down this week after the Papers exposed that his offshore company lost millions in 2008, and is claiming about $4.2 million from three failed Icelandic banks.
- President Vladimir Putin of Russia claims the Panama Papers have been unjustifiably connected to him. The Papers show that Putin’s close friends moved around $2.7 billion “through shadow companies using a network of law firms and banks that helps billionaires, celebrities, politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers hide their wealth.”
- British Prime Minister David Cameron has admitted to benefitting from illegal activities associated with Mossack Fonseca through an offshore trust operated by his father. Mr. Cameron and his wife sold their share in the trust before he became prime minister in 2010. Despite his seeming transparency, Cameron has been scrutinized for this connection because of his focus on eradicating tax evasion.
The above three political figures have received the most attention this week, but as previously stated, numerous officials are connected. Others include the brother-in-law of China’s President Xi Jinping, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, Argentina President Mauricio Macri, and three children of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
As officials continue to investigate and analyze the documents, those accused continue to deny involvement. But the impact of the Papers has just begun, as people around the world are demanding the truth.