The International Consortium of InvestigativeJournalists (ICIJ) has published a press release of their investigation into the case of offshore holdings of 128 politicians, including Russia’s Putin and Ukraine’s Poroshenko, and 29 billionaires.
A massive leak of documents exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies. The leak also provides details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials around the world. More than 214,000 offshore entities appear in the leak, connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories.
The ICIJ named its investigation ‘The Panama Papers’ as the leaked records — which were reviewed by a team of more than 370 journalists from 76 countries — 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. According to the journalists, the company founded hard-to-trace offshore companies for clients who want keep their finances under wraps.
The leaked data covers nearly 40 years, from 1977 through the end of 2015. It allows a never-before-seen view inside the offshore world — providing a day-to-day, decade-by-decade look at how dark money flows through the global financial system, breeding crime and stripping national treasuries of tax revenues.
The cache of 11.5 million records shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.
In 2014, Mossack Fonseca was spotted in the USA. In Nevada, the leaked files show, Mossack Fonseca employees worked in late 2014 to obscure the links between the law firm’s Las Vegas branch and its headquarters in Panama in anticipation of a U.S. court order requiring it to turn over information on 123 companies incorporated by the law firm. Argentine prosecutors had linked those Nevada-based companies to a corruption scandal involving an associate of former presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
In an effort to free itself from the American court’s jurisdiction, Mossack Fonseca claimed that its Las Vegas office, MF Nevada, wasn’t in fact a branch office at all. It said it had no control over the office. The firm’s internal records show the opposite. They indicate that the firm controlled MF Nevada’s bank account and the firm’s co-founders and another Mossack Fonseca official owned 100 percent of MF Nevada.
To erase evidence of the connection, the law firm arranged to remove paper documents from the branch and worked to delete computer traces of the link between the Nevada and the Panama operations, internal emails show.
The records reveal a pattern of covert maneuvers by banks, companies and people tied to Russian leader Putin. The records show offshore companies linked to this network moving money in transactions as large as $200 million at a time. Putin associates disguised payments, backdated documents and gained hidden influence within the country’s media and automotive industries, the leaked files show. Interestingly, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman did not answer questions for this story, but instead went public March 28 with charges that ICIJ and its media partners were preparing a misleading “information attack” on Putin and people close to him.
World leaders who have embraced anti-corruption platforms feature in the leaked documents. The files reveal offshore companies linked to the family of China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, who has vowed to fight “armies of corruption,” as well as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has positioned himself as a reformer in a country shaken by corruption scandals. The files also contain new details of offshore dealings by the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, a leader in the push for tax-haven reform.