Fallout Spreads From 'History's Biggest Leak'

Offshore firms unmasked in 'Panama Papers'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2016 5:04 AM CDT
Updated Apr 4, 2016 6:14 AM CDT
A security guard sits outside the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama City.   (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
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(Newser) – It's being called the "WikiLeaks of the mega-rich," and it's the top story in dozens of countries around the world: A gargantuan document leak has revealed information on more than 200,000 offshore entities—and the people who use them to hide their money. Suddeutsche Zeitung, the German paper first contacted by the anonymous source who turned over the documents, says the 2.6-terabyte leak of 40 years of information from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca is by far the biggest leak of its kind in history, dwarfing the likes of Cablegate and the Edward Snowden leak. Journalists from more than 100 organizations have been secretly reviewing the 11.5 million documents in the "Panama Papers" over the last year. A roundup of coverage:

  • The Guardian explains exactly what Mossack Fonseca does in its operations in tax havens around the world—and why some, but not all, of those who use offshore shell companies are crooks.
  • The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists lists some of the biggest finds in the leak and describes how the papers reveal the way "dark money flows through the global financial system, breeding crime and stripping national treasuries of tax revenues."

  • Fusion lists some of the dozens of current and former world leaders connected to the files, including Iceland's prime minister, who is under pressure to hold a snap election following the news that he failed to disclose offshore holdings. The documents also revealed a $1 billion money-laundering ring linked to Vladimir Putin.
  • Mossack Fonseca denies any wrongdoing, but the BBC has uncovered emails in which the firm appeared to break money-laundering rules by helping American business guru Marianna Olszewski pretend that her offshore funds belonged to somebody else.
  • Tax authorities in Australia say they're now investigating at least 800 wealthy citizens for suspected tax evasion, the AP reports. Tax probes in many other countries are expected to follow.
  • The Miami Herald has gone through the leaked documents and discovered hard evidence of what authorities have long suspected: "Dirty money" processed through shell companies is fueling South Florida's real-estate boom.
  • Mossack Fonseca co-founder Ramon Fonseca tells Reuters that the "vast majority" of the 240,000 offshore firms the company helped create have been used for "legitimate purposes." He adds that privacy is "a sacred human right," and documents that appear to reveal some very obvious wrongdoing have been "taken out of context."
  • Edward Snowden has been keeping a close eye on developments. "Courage is contagious," he tweeted. He also retweeted this observation from journalist Bobby Ghosh: "Can we just remind ourselves that the #PanamaPapers are from just ONE law firm, in just ONE tax haven."
(Read more Panama Papers stories.)

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