PANAMA PAPERS | ICIJ rocks the world

ICIJ RELEASES THE PANAMA PAPERS STORY

The non-profit Center for Public Integrity‘s ICIJ released their first Panama Papers report on April 3, 2016, publicizing the leak of over 11.5 million documents (2.8 terabytes of data) and shining a glaring spotlight on the secrets of prominent people who would rather have kept their offshore affairs private.

With some 15,600 shell companies revealed among the 2.6 terabytes of data leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

icij.orgThe Panama Papers: Politicians, Criminals and the Rogue Industry That Hides Their Cash … A giant leak of more than 11.5 million financial and legal records exposes a system that enables crime, corruption and wrongdoing, hidden by secretive offshore companies.

  • Leaked records show that hundreds of banks and their subsidiaries and branches registered nearly 15,600 shell companies
  • Complex offshore financial deals channel money and power towards a network of people and companies linked to President Vladimir Putin.
  • Files show client roster that includes drug dealers, Mafia members, corrupt politicians and tax evaders — and wrongdoing galore.
  • via The Panama Papers ICIJ

PBS News Hour – “Here’s what we know so far…”

PBS released the following wrap-up highlighting the initial impact of the Panama Papers on several of the rich, famous, and influential. The video below also includes an ICIJ produced segment putting victims of the shadowy world of covert companies, money laundering, criminal operations, and their offshore financial secrecy in the spotlight.

The documents were first leaked to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, who chose to share the files with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

 What is ICIJ? A look at the group behind the Panama Papers – CNNMoney Watergate had Deep Throat feeding details of presidential corruption to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Edward Snowden exposed the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance network to Glenn Greenwald, among others … In the case of the Panama Papers, the information traveled from leaker to a German newspaper to hundreds of journalists around the world.

With demands for Mossack Fonseca’s clients around the world to explain their secret dealings, The Economist answered the question on many people’s lips. 

What are the Panama papers and why do they matter? | The Economist

Companies such as Mossack specialise in helping foreigners hide wealth. Clients may want to keep money away from soon-to-be ex-wives, dodge sanctions, launder money or evade taxes. The main tools for doing so are anonymous shell companies (which exist only on paper) and offshore accounts in tax havens (which often come with perks such as banking secrecy and low to no taxes). These structures obscure the identity of the true owner of money parked in or routed through jurisdictions such as Panama … Although by no means all of these are criminal or even shady, the first public examples make for telling reading. On the naughty list are people such as Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, who promised to sell his business interests on taking office. He seems to have merely transferred assets to an offshore shell. Other heads of government, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iceland’s Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson are suspected of hiding ownership of offshore assets by putting them in the names of friends or relatives. Mossack denies any wrongdoing, as does Mr Gunnlaugsson. A spokesman for Mr Putin has denounced the allegations as a case of “Putinophobia”.  Via economist.com

Iceland’s Prime Minister resigns

(April 5) Two days after Iceland’s Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson walked away from the interviewer who questioned him about a company called Wintris, Iceland’s population is in an uproar. The Prime Minister resigns.

Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson stepped aside amid popular uproar over his links to an offshore company in a Caribbean tax haven … Mr. Gunnlaugsson, 41 years old, is leaving office “for an unspecified amount of time,” according to a government press statement, in the face of growing popular uproar in his tiny mid-Atlantic…  View the full story at wsj.com

It’s easy to see why Iceland’s residents are in an uproar over allegations that their prime minister has control of secret offshore funds, only a few years after the 2008 collapse of the country’s banking system amid accusations of corruption. For an investigative journalism report on the 2008 collapse, see the Academy award-winning documentary film Inside Job.

Revelations have only just begun

(April 9, 2016) Others under fire include numerous of China’s wealthy and influential citizens, the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the British Virgin Islands.

http://www.starcourier.com/news/20160407/panama-papers-leaks-name-prominent-china-political-familiesThe ICIJ reports state that Deng Jiagui, the husband of President Xi Jinping’s older sister Qi Qiaoqiao, used Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca to open one offshore company in 2004 and another two in 2009. ICIJ said it was unclear why Deng opened …Panama Papers leaks name prominent China political families – Kewanee Star Courier

 

Protesters in London

Protesters in Iceland

It’s only just begun

http://time.com/4282811/panama-papers-icij/ But the fallout from the yearlong investigation is far from over, according to Michael Hudson, a senior editor at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which published the documents. “We see more coming out,” Hudson, 54 …Huffington Post Panama Papers Revelations Have Only Just Begun, Investigative Editor Says – TIME

And the real question?

Shrouding the financial affairs the very wealthy in secrecy, shell companies, and nominees makes it possible for those who are not ethical to avoid justice: wealthy criminals, corrupt politicians, terrorist organizations, and others determined to avoid just taxation by the countries who have made them rich.

I applaud the work of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, its affiliates, and its donors. The ICIJ works diligently to shine the spotlight on those who try to hide their shady dealings. If you feel outrage when you read the following stories that the ICIJ has released over the last few years, be sure to vote your conscience – not only with your ballots when it’s time to go to the polls, but also with your resources. Don’t just read and mutter, “What’s the world coming to.”

It’s our world. We can vote, we can invest in ethical funds, we can donate to worthy causes like the ICIJ, we can express our opinions.