The Importance of “the Panama Papers”

A group of over 100 different media organizations published a hugely important expose based on documents that were leaked to them from a whistleblower inside the law firm at the heart of the scandal.

Journalists from more than 80 nations jointly released their research showing that many of the world’s most important leaders and most famous people have been quietly squirreling their riches away in offshore accounts. The story comes from documents leaked to the media showing the secrets inside one of the world’s most prominent law firms, Mossack Fonseca, in Panama. Mossack Fonseca is based in Panama but has offices in most of the world’s tax haven nations, like Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands.

The documents expose holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials worldwide. Included: At least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the U.S. governmentbecause of links to wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist groups or rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran. 

Check out this explainer from USA Today:

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More on this from CNN:

The Guardian explains some of what the Panama Papers actually reveal:

  • Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.
  • A $2bn trail leads all the way to Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s best friend – a cellist called Sergei Roldugin – is at the centre of a scheme in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore. Some of it ends up in a ski resort where in 2013 Putin’s daughter Katerina got married.
  • Among national leaders with offshore wealth are Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister; Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president; and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.
  • In the UK, six members of the House of Lords, three former Conservative MPs and dozens of donors to British political parties have had offshore assets.
  • The families of at least eight current and former members of China’s supreme ruling body, the politburo, have been found to have hidden wealth offshore.
  • Twenty-three individuals who have had sanctions imposed on them for supporting the regimes in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Russia, Iran and Syria have been clients of Mossack Fonseca. Their companies were harboured by the Seychelles, the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other jurisdictions.
  • A key member of Fifa’s powerful ethics committee, which is supposed to be spearheading reform at world football’s scandal-hit governing body, acted as a lawyer for individuals and companies recently charged with bribery and corruption.
  • One leaked memorandum from a partner of Mossack Fonseca said: “Ninety-five per cent of our work coincidentally consists in selling vehicles to avoid taxes.”

Interestingly, there were not a lot of famous/rich Americans revealed within the Panama Papers, not because they don’t do illegal things, but because our wealthy likely use different methods to move and hide their money. One of the most important revelations comes from certain Muslim world leaders like Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, and Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq. These two men watched as Billions of American aid dollars went missing from both of their countries. This isn’t definitive proof of their wrongdoing, but it does lend credence to the idea that our government is wasting our hard-earned money on money pits like Iraq and Pakistan.

(Another interesting tidbit – it seems that Vladimir Putin may well be among the richest men on the planet.)

Keep watching the Panama Papers story as it unfolds, because we’ll likely learn a lot more worrisome tidbits over the next few days, weeks, and months.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

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