Panama Papers: Background, Power Players, and Where the Money Is Hiding

Earlier this week an investigation published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and its media partners revealed the hidden workings of offshore finance. The cache of 11.5 million records, known as the Panama Papers, shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to world leaders, politicians and drug traffickers, as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson has already resigned following public outcry over an offshore company he controlled with his wife that concealed millions in assets, and made big claims on Iceland’s banks following the recession. Others implicated include David Cameron, linked through his father, close friends of Vladimir Putin, as well as Hollywood actor Jackie Chan and footballer Lionel Messi.

You can view the extensive list of implicated persons here.

The leaked records, spanning 40 years, were reviewed by a team of more than 370 journalists from 76 countries and come from a little-known but powerful law firm based in Panama, Mossack Fonseca, that has branches in Hong Kong, Miami, Zurich and more than 35 other places around the globe. The firm is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies, corporate structures that can be used to hide ownership of assets. The law firm’s leaked internal files contain information on 214,488 offshore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories.

The documents reveal that banks, law firms and other offshore players often fail to follow legal requirements to assure that clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption. The files show that these fixers and middlemen protect themselves and their clients by concealing suspect transactions. In some instances, they work to head off official investigations by backdating and destroying documents.

Hear’s a quick overview from ICIJ.

Whilst the police and tax authorities have been busy launching investigations around the world, the tax paying public have sat back to watch, and consider the potential scale of what is set to unfold – better visualised through this map by Brian Kilmartin.

For more infor head to the Panama Papers Source: ICIJ

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James is the Founder and Editor of The Versatile Gent.

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