What Are the Panama Papers and Who Do They Expose?

The mother of all leaks has hit the press, revealing 2.6 terabytes worth of data on offshore businesses, tax havens, emails and photos from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The leaked data, which spans from the 1970s to 2016, has been kept secret the past two years as journalists poured over documents verifying information. 

In total more than 11 million documents have been collected by a multinational team of over 300 journalists and specialists. And what they discovered was an amazingly intricate shadow world, just outside our view.

Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), the German media house which initially received the leaks, explains why these papers are so damning:

Generally speaking, owning an offshore company is not illegal in itself. In fact, establishing an offshore company can be seen as a logical step for a broad range of business transactions. However, a look through the Panama Papers very quickly reveals that concealing the identities of the true company owners was the primary aim in the vast majority of cases.

SZ goes on to point out that:

Mossack Fonsecas’ clients include criminals and members of various Mafia groups. The documents also expose bribery scandals and corrupt heads of state and government. The alleged offshore companies of twelve current and former heads of state make up one of the most spectacular parts of the leak, as do the links to other leaders, and to their families, closest advisors, and friends.

And these connections are already having real world implications. For instance, in Iceland the prime minister recently resigned after mounting pressure from citizens. The leaks had shown that both him and his spouse used these offshore accounts to hide millions of dollars worth of investments.

In France, right wing leader of the National Front, Marie Le Pen – whose own party has attacked the use of tax havens – also has ties to offshore accounts. According to the Financial Times, “Riwal, a communications company used by her party, used a company based in a tax haven to send about €300,000 off shore, with the help of an adviser to the National Front leader.”

Heads of state that have been linked to offshore accounts include King Salman of Saudi Arabia, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, President Mauricio Macri of Argentina and Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan to name a few. Celebrities such as Jackie Chan, a number of international sports stars and various government officials from the UK to Nigeria have all been discovered within the files.

However, even more damning are the criminal activities some clients of Mossack Fonseca were engaged in. These include sexual slavery, war crimes and the trade of conflict minerals. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who helped lead discovery on the Panama Papers explains the real life consequences of these offshore companies.

And the revelations are far from over.

However, Mossack Fonseca is hitting back against allegations of wrongdoing. They told CNN: 

Our industry is not particularly well understood by the public, and unfortunately this series of articles will only serve to deepen that confusion. The facts are these: while we may have been the victim of a data breach, nothing we’ve seen in this illegally obtained cache of documents suggests we’ve done anything illegal, and that’s very much in keeping with the global reputation we’ve built over the past 40 years of doing business the right way, right here in Panama.”

Yet in the UK. government leaders are calling for increased accountability. Leader of the Labor Party Jeremy Corbyn told the press that British Prime Minister David Cameron must start cracking down on tax evasion.There cannot be one set of tax rules for the wealthy elite and another for the rest of us,” he told reporters. “This unfairness and abuse must stop. No more lip service. The richest must pay their way.”

As revelations continue to unfold it will be interesting to see how governments, elected officials and public figures from around the globe attempt to explain their involvement in offshore accounts. However, one thing that’s been made clear by these leaks is that in this new world, exposing some of the world’s dirtiest secrets is only a click away.

Photo Credit: SQUAIO


william Miller
william Miller2 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Marie W.
Marie W3 years ago

No surprises here.

Mary B.
Mary B3 years ago

Anne, you are missing my point. Hillary is a crusader for low income people, but that's not the same as having been one.I am not against her being wealthy.If the Wall street types are paying her rediculous amounts that just shows me they have way too much disposable income and are hoping for some favorable treatment. Very natural and yeah, "So what" ? And then you go on to point out that Bernie's no angle as if you think you have to justify Hillary ?What are you so defensive about? You have your preferences and I have mine. I wanted you to understand that it's a difference in the classes of income, and my vote goes to the one who has the better grasp of working class life and values, because the slow and baby steps approach is a luxury of the rich, not the poor. So if Hillary becomes president, she will not be able to use the usual oh 'we'll raise wages up to a decent level .75 at a time over the next 4 years. I'm not interested in argueing with you or any Hillary supporter. I am NOT an undecided voter.

Anne Moran
Anne Moran3 years ago

Mary B. - ''She doesn't have a clue about underpaid people etc. etc.'' because she is a wealthy woman ?? - Are you kidding ?? - Maybe you should google her bio, and see all of the work she's done from a young age, helping all people regardless of their job status, race, gender, politics, etc. - She is relentless in her causes.. - So she made money giving speeches, so what ?? - Show you that people on Wall Street and other big corps. thought she was well WORTH it... - Anyway, that was THEN, and it's all water under the bridge... - Have to focus on the now, and on the future.. - BTW,, I'm SURE Sanders is no angel...

Dianne D.
Dianne D3 years ago

Thanks for the summary. Wonder what they were.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

"Panama Papers Reveal Clinton’s Kremlin Connection"

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

"Obama’s Reaction to Panama Papers Exposed as a Sham — Rothschilds Continue US-Based Tax Haven"

“How ironic—no, how perverse—that the USA, which has been so sanctimonious in its condemnation of Swiss banks, has become the banking secrecy jurisdiction du jour,” wrote Peter A. Cotorceanu, a lawyer at Anaford AG, a Zurich law firm, in a recent legal journal. “That ‘giant sucking sound’ you hear? It is the sound of money rushing to the USA.”

Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/obama-calls-international-tax-reform-fails-mention-u-s-worlds-favorite-billionaire-tax-haven/#Z0B2JVc3jDOq8dKF.99

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

"The ‘Panama Papers’ and ‘Regime Change’: Who is Behind ‘The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ (ICIJ)?"

Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing