'Panama Papers' probes opened worldwide

Apr 05, 2016, 8:32 AM EDT
(Source: katrýn/flickr)
(Source: katrýn/flickr)

A massive leak from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca showed extensive offshore assets and shell accounts of the rich and famous.

NBC News writes:

An extensive investigation into the offshore financial dealings of the rich and famous was published by an international coalition of media outlets Sunday, based on a vast trove of documents said to have been leaked by an anonymous source. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, said the cache of 11.5 million records detailed the offshore holdings of a dozen current and former world leaders, as well as businessmen, criminals, celebrities and sports stars. A co-founder of the Panamanian-based law firm where the documents originated confirmed the authenticity of the papers being used in articles published by more than 100 news organizations around the world. Ramon Fonseca told Panama's Channel 2 television network that the documents were acquired illegally in a hacking attack. The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said it first received the data more than a year ago. The Munich-based daily was offered the data through an encrypted channel by an anonymous source who requested no monetary compensation and asked only for unspecified security measures, said Bastian Obermayer, a reporter for the paper.

Time reports:

The millions of documents include financial records, passports and correspondence stretching back 40 years, and detail 214,000 offshore entities across more than 200 countries. Offshore accounts aren’t illegal but are often used as tax havens for money laundering and corruption. Many of these entities were reportedly found to be shell companies established in order to help several of the law firm’s clients, through more than 500 top banks worldwide, allegedly hide income and transactions worth billions of dollars. At least 140 offshore accounts have been linked to current and former politicians worldwide, with 12 current and former heads of state including Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, former Prime Minister of Iraq Ayad Allawi and Saudi Arabian monarch King Salman named in the list. The family members and associates of several other world leaders—Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, South African President Jacob Zuma, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Chinese President Xi Jinping, to name a few— have also been implicated. Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson may face a snap election, and walked out of a recent interview when asked about his alleged dealings detailed in the Panama Papers.

Business Insider notes:

Vladimir Putin's spokesman claimed that the Russian president was the "main target" of the investigation, which he suggested was the result of "Putinophobia" and aimed at smearing the country in a parliamentary election year. The ICIJ has links to the U.S. government, Dmitry Peskov suggested. "I don't consider it possible to go into the details" of allegations that Putin's friends ran an offshore scheme, Peskov told reporters, "mainly because there is nothing concrete and nothing new about Putin, and a lack of details." He added that Sergei Rodulgin, a St. Petersburg-based cellist allegedly involved in the offshore schemes, was a friend of Putin's but that the president "has very many friends." Peskov, who had last week foreshadowed the disclosure of the documents by warning of an upcoming "information attack" on Putin, said Monday he expected more reports to follow. In Russia, where the investigation was published by independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the scandal faced an effective coverage ban. Russian television on Monday morning made no mention of it.