A massive document leak from the internal database of an international law firm based in Panama, Mossack, Fonseca, exposes the offshore holdings 12 current and former world leaders, and the details of hidden financial dealings of 128 politicians, public officials and athletes around the world.
The leak, comprised of 11.5 million records dating back 40 years, is a collaborative effort by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news agencies. It amounts to approximately 3 terabytes of data including corporate records, financial filings, emails and more, and is roughly 100 times larger than the 1.7 GB of data leaked in 2010 by Wikileaks.
“I think the leak will prove to be probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents,” Gerard Ryle, director of the ICIJ, told BBC.
The leak reveals the details how many politicians have relied on shell companies conceal their wealth, launder money or evade taxes, and to do business with blacklisted firms. A memorandum from a Mossack Fonseca partner contained in the leak reads, “Ninety-five per cent of our work coincidentally consists in selling vehicles to avoid taxes,” according to The Guardian.
Here are some of the key findings from the report released after a yearlong investigation by ICIJ, and 100 other media organizations.
- The leak provides details on more than 214,000 offshore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories.
- Reveal the offshore holdings 140 politicians and public officials around the world including the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia.
- Documents in the leak are linked to the families and associates of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi, Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, and the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko.
- A number of closet associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin were named in the documents who earned millions from deals that were unlikely to be secured without Putin’s help.
- The data shows that Sergei Roldugin, Putin’s best friend and professional musician, is at the center of a ring of approximately$2 billion in transactions cycled between Bank Rossiya and a series of off-shore companies. As a result, Roldugin is in control of assets about or possibly more than $100 million, including 3.2 %of Bank Rossiya, which has been described as Putin’s “crony bank.”
- It includes the the names of “at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the US government” for their alleged links to Mexican drug lords and terror organizations.
- It shows how more than 500 major banks, including HSBC, UBS and Société Générale, have driven the creation of hard-to-trace companies — roughly 15,000 of them — in offshore havens. The Saudi Crown prince opened an account for his offshore company with UBS, the documents show.
- The data reveals how Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson had an undeclared interest in Iceland’s bailed-out banks. Gunnlaugsson bought off-shore company Wintris in 2007. He failed to declare his interest in the company when entering parliament in 2009.
Mossack Fonseca has defended its practices saying “it is legal and common for companies to establish commercial entities in different jurisdictions for a variety of legitimate reasons, including conducting cross-border mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies, estate planning, personal safety, restructuring and pooling of investment capital from different jurisdictions in neutral legal and tax regimes that does not benefit or disadvantage any one investor.”