The HUGE news this week is the Panama Papers leak, a massive cache of 11.5 million documents leaked to a German Newspaper (Süddeutsche Zeitung) in August 2015. It’s one of the most significant data leaks of all time and Edward Snowden has labelled it as “the biggest leak in the history of data journalism”. It’s also pretty huge at about 2.6TB of data, was leaked anonymously without any payment and goes all the way back to the 1970s.
The Panama Papers are a leaked set of 11.5 million confidential documents that provide detailed information about more than 214,000 offshore companies listed by the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, including the identities of shareholders and directors of the companies.
The documents show how wealthy public officials hide their money and identify current government leaders from five countries – Argentina, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates – as well as government officials, close relatives, and close associates of various heads of government of more than forty other countries, including Brazil, the People’s Republic of China, Peru, France, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Syria, and the United Kingdom.
The firm involved, Mossack Fonseca is obviously back-pedalling hard and has registered a domain and designed a website just for their press statement: http://mossfonmedia.com/
But the ripples are already kicking in, with the PM of Iceland resigning and a lot of others countries, organisations (including FIFA) and political families finding themselves in hot water.
Iceland’s prime minister has stepped down – the first major casualty of the leaked Panama Papers that have shone a spotlight on offshore finance.
The leaks, from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, showed Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson owned an offshore company with his wife but had not declared it when he entered parliament.
He is accused of concealing millions of dollars’ worth of family assets. Mr Gunnlaugsson says he sold his shares to his wife and denies any wrongdoing.
Yah sold to his wife for $1, convenient right?
There’s all kinds of other reactions too with France adding Panama back to the list of countries that doesn’t comply with tax, China completely censoring all mentions of the Panama Papers country-wide and the head of the anti-corruption watchdog in Chile also stepping down after being implicated (ironic much?).
Plenty of other scandals are dropping out of the docs too as they get investigated further and linked together, tracing links between complex multi-layer, multi-country financial transactions.
Thirty three of its clients have been blacklisted by the US government for allegedly doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organisations and “rogue nations” like North Korea and Iran. Its files have unearthed a secret, shady $2 billion (£1.3 billion) trail of money that leads to Vladimir Putin. One of its clients played a crucial role in the Watergate scandal. Another was convicted for the torture and murder of a US drug enforcement agent.
Mossack Fonseca appears to have claimed that the hack happened on their e-mail server, which makes me wonder – what kind of e-mail server do they have that stores 11.5 million documents? And documents going all the way back to the 1970s?
That’s one hell of an e-mail server.
There’s definitely going to be a lot of articles written about this, a lot of discussions on this and much more to come as the ICIJ haven’t even gone through ALL the documents yet. There may be further implications coming soon.
For now, it’s an interesting drama to watch unfold.
The offical site for the whole thing is here: https://panamapapers.icij.org/