In what’s being called the biggest leak in journalism history, 11.5 million documents (it takes up 2.6 terabytes) were leaked to a German paper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and they detail the major corruption of the billionaire class in the form of offshore accounts.
The Panama Papers came from a law firm in Panama called Mossack Fonseca, who reportedly is one of the biggest creators of shell companies in the world. A shell company is an inactive company that is used for “financial maneuvers,” mostly money laundering and avoiding sanctions or taxes. So although offshore accounts are technically not illegal, the reasons that people create the accounts are typically illegal.
The German paper that released the documents said that the leak
“provides rare insights into a world that can only exist in the shadows. It proves how a global industry led by major banks, legal firms, and asset management companies secretly manages the estates of the world’s rich and famous: from politicians, FIFA officials, fraudsters and drug smugglers, to celebrities and professional athletes.”
A video created by NowThis on the matter revealed that some of the people involved were Vladimir Putin, actor Jackie Chan, soccer player Lionel Messi, and the presidents and prime ministers of Argentina, U.A.E., Iceland, and Ukraine.
Ranging from 1977 to 2015, the leaks expose the details of 214,000 offshore entities. Of the billionaires implicated in the leaks, over 140 politicians have already been exposed, with 12 of them being current or former heads of state.
The German paper behind the leak had the information for about a year before releasing it to the public, as they wanted to investigate all of the materials and their validity before unveiling the bulk of information. Over 370 news journalists from 107 different news organizations worked on the investigation.
They collaborated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to get the job done. The director of the ICIJ, Gerard Ryle, told the BBC, “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.”
Since the leak came out, Mossack Fonseca has released a statement about their position on the issue, calling the leak a “crime.” Ramon Fonseca, one of the firm’s founders, said, “This is a crime, a felony. Privacy is a fundamental human right that is being eroded more and more in the modern world. Each person has a right to privacy, whether they are a king or a beggar.”
Fonseca went on further to say that the leak was “an attack on Panama,” effectively calling other countries jealous because companies are more attracted to Panama when deciding to start companies.
The ICIJ had something entirely different to say of the massive data leak, explaining that, “Banks, law firms and other offshore players often fail to follow legal requirements to make sure 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.”
The source that provided the documents reportedly asked for nothing in return, including monetary reimbursement.
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