Panama Papers – the biggest data leaks in the history

Panama Papers – the biggest data leaks in the history

One of the biggest leaks in journalistic history exposed how secretive offshore companies set up by the politicians, dictators, business tycoons, celebrities and criminals across the globe hid wealth, evaded taxes and committed fraud. Here are some interesting facts related to the Panama Papers controversy.

What are Panama Papers? 

  • Panama Papers are in fact a very large proportion of documents obtained from a Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.
  • The alleged secret documents were received by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
  • The ICIJ then worked with journalists from 107 media organisations in 76 countries, including UK newspaper the Guardian, to analyze 11.5 m documents over a year.
  • In all, the details of 214,000 entities, including companies, trusts and foundations, were leaked.

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What do Panama Papers reveal?

  • The files show how Mossack Fonseca clients managed to launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid tax.
  • In many such cases, the Panamanian law firm offered an American millionaire fake ownership records to hide money from the authorities, which was in direct breach of international regulations designed to stop money laundering and tax evasion.
  • It is undoubtedly the biggest leak in history, dwarfing the data released by the Wikileaks founder, Julian Paul Assange - an Australian - in 2010. For context, if the amount of data released by Wikileaks was equivalent to the population of San Francisco, the amount of data released in the Panama Papers is the believed to equivalent to that of India.

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Who all are involved in Panama Papers

  • Several current or former heads of state and government, their relatives, politicians, film stars, business leaders, criminals have found mention in the Panama Papers.
  • Notable among those who were named are - Russian President Vladimir Putin whose close associates have been named in connection with a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring, brother-in-law of China's President Xi Jinping, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, Argentina President Mauricio Macri, the late father of UK Prime Minister David Cameron and three of the four children of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
  • The documents also revealed that Iceland's Prime Minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, had an undeclared interest linked to his wife's wealth – the expose led to his resignation from his post.
  • The scandal also touched football's world governing body, FIFA.
  • Several documents revealed that Uruguayan lawyer Juan Pedro Damiani – a member of FIFA's ethics committee - and his firm provided legal assistance for at least seven offshore companies linked to a former FIFA vice-president who was arrested last year in May as part of the US inquiry into football corruption.
  • The documents also disclosed that over 500 top banks, including their subsidiaries and branches, registered nearly 15,600 shell companies with Mossack Fonseca.

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What do those named in Panama Papers say?

  • Most of the lenders have categorically denied charges that they helped their clients to avoid tax by using complicated offshore arrangements.
  • Mossack Fonseca too claimed that it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and never been accused or charged with criminal wrong-doing.
  • Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reports were down to "journalists and members of other organisations actively trying to discredit Putin and this country's leadership".
  • In an interview with a Swedish television channel, ex Iceland Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson said his business affairs were above board and broke off the interview.
  • On its part, FIFA said it is now probing Damiani’s conduct and has severed all business with him as soon as the latter was accused of corruption.

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Who leaked the Panama Papers?

  • The 11.5m documents were obtained by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

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