On Sunday, April 3, several news media reported on what’s being dubbed “the Panama Papers,” a massive leak of a whopping 11.5 million confidential documents of a Panama-based law firm, Mosack Fonseca. Mossack Fonesca is the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm.
The leak revealed 2.6 terabytes of data, covering nearly 40 years of records. It contains potentially damaging information about several world leaders and many of their associates.
It all started with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which put out an in-depth investigated and analysed report that blows the lid off tax evasion and secret offshore dealings of the powerful, rich and famous across the globe in 21 offshore jurisdictions such as Nevada, Niue, Samoa, British Anguilla, Hong Kong, Tortola, Seychelles and the British Virgin Islands. The 12 current and former heads of state from Iceland, Ukraine, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Argentina. It also provides data on some 214,000 companies.
The ICIJ said:
“It allows a never-before-seen view inside the offshore world providing a day-to-day, decade-by-decade look at how dark money flows through the global financial system, breeding crime and stripping national treasuries of tax revenues”
Mossack Fonseca, founded in 1977 by German-born Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, specializes in commercial law, trust services, investor advisory and international structures. The law firm’s website claims it is one of the largest firms in the corporate services industry and has over 40 offices globally. It also offers intellectual property protection and maritime law services.
The Munich-based daily, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which got the secret papers and shared it with ICIJ, says in its report that Mossack Fonesca sells anonymous offshore companies around the world. These shell firms enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady.
Why would anyone invest in a shell company?
According to a related article on FirstPost.com, it is not illegal to own a shell company. Usually, the world’s famous people who do not want to seen as the real owner of assets prefers to invest in a shell company which masks the real owner. That is not legal. Buying a shell company is a good source of stashing away money that you don’t want anyone to know– bankers, government, the taxman, and also your wife or husband. If the money is ill-gotten wealth, all the more reasons to invest in a shell company. A lawyer is brilliant cover to buy a shell company, if you don’t want to do it yourself.
Who are the world leaders ad top shots exposed?
- Mauricio Macri, President, Argentina
- Vladimir Putin (to be fair, his name does not appear in the records) but his inner circle including his family and best friend and professional musician Sergei Roldugin
- Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Prime Minister, Iceland
- Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia
- Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates and emir of Abu Dhabi– one of the wealthiest man in the world
- Pavlo Lazarenko, former PM of Ukraine, one of the world’s 10 most corrupt politicians by Transparency International,
- Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine and billionaire ‘chocolate king
- Li Xiaolin, the second child and only daughter of former Chinese Premier Li Peng
- Ian Cameron, father of British Prime Minister David Cameron. He died on September 8, 2010
- Mariam Safdar, daughter of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hasan and Hussain
- Alaa Mubarak is a wealthy Egyptian businessman and the eldest son of ousted former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
- Mounir Majidi, a businessman and entrepreneur, who was the personal secretary to the King Mohammed VI of Morocco, in 2000.
- Clive Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma.
- Lionel Messi and his father who was his agent
- Michel Platini
- Leonardo Ulloa, a top scorer for Leicester City
- Gabriel Iván Heinze from Argentina who played with Manchester United and Real Madrid
The family of Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki was also named, Premium Times, reports.
The medium wrote:
At least four assets belonging to the wealthy and famous Saraki family of Nigeria, all tucked away in secret offshore territories, have been uncovered.
But the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, failed to declare them to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) as required by Nigerian laws.
This revelation, made possible by internal data of the Panama-based offshore-provider, Mossack Fonseca, obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with PREMIUM TIMES and over 100 other media partners in 82 countries, could worsen Mr. Saraki’s case as he battles to extricate himself from allegations of corruption.
Where were the intermediaries set up?
Fonseca worked with over 14,000 banks, law firms, company incorporators besides other middlemen to set up companies, foundations and trusts for customers. The top preferred 10 countries are: Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Switzerland, United States, Panama, Guatemala, Luxembourg, Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay
Explore the interactive below for more details: