This article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. (May 2016)
The Panama Papers are 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities. The documents, some dating back to the 1970s, were created by, and taken from, Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, and were leaked in 2015 by an anonymous source.
The documents contain personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private. While offshore business entities are legal (see Offshore Magic Circle), reporters found that some of the Mossack Fonseca shell corporations were used for illegal purposes, including fraud, tax evasion, and evading international sanctions.
"John Doe", the whistleblower who leaked the documents to German journalist Bastian Obermayer from the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), remains anonymous, even to the journalists who worked on the investigation. "My life is in danger", he told them. In a May 6 statement, John Doe cited income inequality as the reason for his action, and said he leaked the documents "simply because I understood enough about their contents to realise the scale of the injustices they described". He added that he had never worked for any government or intelligence agency and expressed willingness to help prosecutors if granted immunity from prosecution. After SZ verified that the statement did in fact come from the source for the Panama Papers, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) posted the full document on its website.
SZ asked the ICIJ for help because of the amount of data involved. Journalists from 107 media organizations in 80 countries analyzed documents detailing the operations of the law firm. After more than a year of analysis, the first news stories were published on April 3, 2016, along with 150 of the documents themselves. The project represents an important milestone in the use of data journalism software tools and mobile collaboration.
The documents were dubbed the Panama Papers because of the country they were leaked from; however, the Panamanian government expressed strong objections to the name, as did other entities in Panama and elsewhere. Some media outlets covering the story have used the name "Mossack Fonseca papers".
In addition to the much-covered business dealings of British prime minister David Cameron and Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the leaked documents also contain identity information about the shareholders and directors of 214,000 shell companies set up by Mossack Fonseca, as well as some of their financial transactions. Much of this information does not show anything more than prudent financial management. It is generally not against the law (in and of itself) to own an offshore shell company, although offshore shell companies may sometimes be used for illegalities.
The journalists on the investigative team found business transactions by many important figures in world politics, sports and art. Many of these transactions are quite legal. Since the data is incomplete, questions remain in many other cases; still others seem to clearly indicate ethical if not legal impropriety. Some disclosures – tax avoidance in very poor countries by very wealthy entities and individuals for example – lead to questions on moral grounds. According to The Namibian for instance, a shell company registered to Beny Steinmetz, Octea, owes more than $700,000 US in property taxes to the city of Koidu in Sierra Leone, and is $150 million in the red, even though its exports were more than twice that in an average month in the 2012–2015 period. Steinmetz himself has personal worth of $6 billion.
Other offshore shell company transactions described in the documents do seem to have broken exchange laws, violated trade sanctions or stemmed from political corruption, according to ICIJ reporters. For example:
- Uruguay has arrested five people and charged them with money-laundering through Mossack Fonseca shell companies for a Mexican drug cartel.
- Ouestaf, an ICIJ partner in the investigation, reported that it had discovered new evidence that Karim Wade received payments from DP World (DP). He and a long-time friend were convicted of this in a trial that the United Nations and Amnesty International said was unfair and violated the defendants' rights. The Ouestaf article does not address the conduct of the trial, but does say that Ouestaf journalists found Mossack Fonseca documents showing payments to Wade via a DP subsidiary and a shell company registered to the friend.
- Swiss lawyer Dieter Neupert has been accused of mishandling client funds and helping both oligarchs and the Qatari royal family to hide money.
Named in the leak were 12 current or former world leaders, 128 other public officials and politicians, and hundreds celebrities, businessmen and other wealthy individuals of over 200 countries.
Individuals and entities may open offshore accounts for any number of reasons, some of which are entirely legal but ethically questionable. A Canadian lawyer based in Dubai noted, for example, that businesses might wish to avoid falling under Islamic inheritance jurisprudence if an owner dies. Businesses in some countries may wish to hold some of their funds in dollars also, said a Brazilian lawyer. Estate planning is another example of legal tax avoidance.
American film-maker Stanley Kubrick had an estimated personal worth of $20 million when he died in 1999, much of it invested in an 18th-century English manor he bought in 1978. He lived in that manor for the rest of his life, filming scenes from The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut there as well. Three holding companies set up by Mossack Fonseca now own the property, and are in turn held by trusts set up for his children and grandchildren. Since Kubrick was an American living in Britain, without the trust his estate would have had to pay transfer taxes to both governments and possibly have been forced to sell the property to obtain the liquid assets to pay them. Kubrick is buried on the grounds along with one of his daughters and the rest of his family still lives there.
Other uses are more ambiguous. Chinese companies may incorporate offshore in order to raise foreign capital, normally against the law in China. In some of the world's hereditary dictatorships, the law may be on the side of the elite who use offshore companies to award oil contracts to themselves, or gold concessions to their children, however such dealings are sometimes prosecuted under international law.
While no standard official definition exists, The Economist and the International Monetary Fund describe an offshore financial center, or tax haven, as a jurisdiction whose banking infrastructure primarily provides services to people or businesses who don't live there, requires little or no disclosure of information when doing business, and offers low taxes.
"The most obvious use of offshore financial centers is to avoid taxes", The Economist added. Oxfam blamed tax havens in its 2016 annual report on income inequality for much of the widening gap between rich and poor. "Tax havens are at the core of a global system that allows large corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, "depriving governments, rich and poor, of the resources they need to provide vital public services and tackle rising inequality."
International Monetary Fund (IMF) researchers estimated in July 2015 that profit shifting by multinational companies costs developing countries around US$213 billion a year, almost two percent of their national income. Igor Angelini, head of Europol's Financial Intelligence Group, said that shell companies "play an important role in large-scale money laundering activities" and that they are often a means to "transfer bribe money". Tax Justice Network concluded in a 2012 report that "designing commercial tax abuse schemes and turning a blind eye upon suspicious transactions have become an inherent part of the work of bankers and accountants."
Money-laundering affects the first world as well, since a favored shell company investment is real estate in Europe and North America. London, Miami, New York, Paris, Vancouver and San Francisco have all been affected. The practice of parking assets in luxury real estate has been frequently cited as fueling skyrocketing housing prices in Miami, where the Miami Association of Realtors said that cash sales accounted for 90% of new home sales in 2015. "There is a huge amount of dirty money flowing into Miami that's disguised as investment," according to former congressional investigator Jack Blum. In Miami, 76% of condo owners pay cash, a practice considered a red flag for money-laundering.
Real estate in London, where housing prices increased 50% from 2007 to 2016, also is frequently purchased by overseas investors. Donald Toon, head of Britain's National Crime Agency, said in 2015 that "the London property market has been skewed by laundered money. Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK". Three quarters of Londoners under 35 cannot afford to buy a home.
Andy Yan, an urban planning researcher and adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia, studied real estate sales in Vancouver—also thought to be affected by foreign purchasers—found that 18% of the transactions in Vancouver's most expensive neighborhoods were cash purchases, and 66% of the owners appeared to be Chinese nationals or recent arrivals from China. Calls for more data on foreign investors have been rejected by the provincial government. Chinese nationals accounted for 70% of 2014 Vancouver home sales for more than $3 million Canadian. On June 24, 2016 China CITIC Bank Corp filed suit in Canada against a Chinese citizen who borrowed CN¥50 million for his lumber business in China, but then withdrew roughly CA$7.5 million from the line of credit and left the country. He bought three houses in Vancouver and Surrey, British Columbia together valued at CA$7.3 million during a three-month period in June 2014.
"This issue will surely be raised at the G20 summit," predicted Tomasz Kozlowski, Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to India. "We need to strengthen international cooperation for exchange of tax information between tax authorities".
Panama, Vanuatu and Lebanon may find themselves on a list of uncooperative tax havens that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) re-activated in July 2016 at the request of G20 nations, warned Le Monde, a French newspaper that participated in the investigation. Those three countries followed none of the OECD's three broad guidelines for international banking cooperation:
- information exchange on request
- a signed multilateral agreement on information standards
- a commitment to implement automated information exchange in 2017 or 2018
The OECD, the G20, or the European Union could also institute another list for countries that are inadequate in more than one area. Countries meeting none of these criteria, such as Panama, Vanuatu and Lebanon, would go on the blacklist. Countries that meet only one criterion would go on the greylist. In April 2016, if this greylist had been in place it would have included nine countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Brunei, Dominica, Liberia, Nauru, Samoa, Tobago and the United Arab Emirates.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists helped organize the research and document review once Süddeutsche Zeitung realized the scale of the work required to validate the authenticity of 2.6 terabytes of leaked data. They enlisted reporters and resources from The Guardian, the BBC, Le Monde, SonntagsZeitung, Falter, La Nación, German broadcasters NDR and WDR, and Austrian broadcaster ORF, and eventually many others. Ultimately, "reporters at 100 news media outlets working in 25 languages had used the documents" to investigate individuals and organizations associated with Mossack Fonseca.
Security factored into a number of project management considerations. Saying his life was in danger, John Doe insisted that reporters communicate over encrypted channels only and agree that they would never meet face-to-face.
SZ also had concerns about security, not only for their source, the leaked documents, and their data, but also for the safety of some of their partners in the investigation living under corrupt regimes who might not want their money-handling practices made public. They stored the data in a room with limited physical access on computers that had never connected to the Internet. The Guardian also limited access to its journalists' project work area. To make it even harder to sabotage the computers or steal their drives, SZ journalists made them more tamper-evident by painting the screws holding the drives in place with glitter nail polish.
Reporters sorted the documents into a huge file structure containing a folder for each shell company, which held the associated emails, contracts, transcripts, and scanned documents Mossack Fonseca had generated while doing business with the company or administering it on a client's behalf. Some 4.8 million leaked files were emails, 3 million were database entries, 2.2 million PDFs, 1.2 million images, 320,000 text files, and 2242 files in other formats.
Journalists indexed the documents using open software packages Apache Solr and Apache Tika, and accessed them by means of a custom interface built on top of Blacklight. Süddeutsche Zeitung reporters also used Nuix for this, which is proprietary software donated by an Australian company also named Nuix.
Using Nuix, Süddeutsche Zeitung reporters performed optical character recognition (OCR) processing on the millions of scanned documents, making the data they contained become both searchable and machine-readable. Most project reporters then used Neo4J and Linkurious to extract individual and corporate names from the documents for analysis, but some who had access to Nuix used it for this as well. Reporters then cross-referenced the compiled lists of people against the processed documents, then analyzed the information, trying to connect people, roles, monetary flow, and structure legality.
Additional stories were released based on this data, and the full list of companies was released in early May 2016. The ICIJ later announced the release on May 9, 2016 of a searchable database containing information on over 200,000 offshore entities implicated in the Panama Papers investigation and more than 100,000 additional companies implicated in the 2013 Offshore Leaks investigation. Mossack Fonseca asked the ICIJ not to publish the leaked documents from its database. "We have sent a cease and desist letter," the company said in a statement.
The sheer quantity of leaked data greatly exceeds the WikiLeaks Cablegate leak in 2010 (1.7 GB), Offshore Leaks in 2013 (260 GB), the 2014 Lux Leaks (4 GB), and the 3.3 GB Swiss Leaks of 2015. For comparison, the 2.6 TB of the Panama Papers equals approximately 2,660 GB.
Mossack Fonseca notified its clients on April 1, 2016 that it had sustained an email hack. Mossack Fonseca also told news sources that the company had been hacked and always operated within the law.
Data security experts noted, however, that the company had not been encrypting its emails and furthermore seemed to have been running a three-year-old version of Drupal with several known vulnerabilities. According to Tech Republic, Drupal ran on the Apache 2.2.15 version from March 6, 2010, and worse, the Oracle fork of Apache, which by default allows users to view directory structure.
Some reports also suggest that some parts of the site may have been running WordPress with an out-of-date version of Revolution Slider, a plugin whose previously-announced vulnerabilities are well-documented.
A grey hat hacker named 1×0123 announced April 12 that Mossack Fonseca's content management system had not been secured from SQL injection, a well-known database attack vector, and that he had been able to access the customer database because of this.
Computer security expert Chris Kubecka announced May 24, 2016 that the Mossack Fonseca client login portal was running four different government grade remote access Trojans (RATs). Kubecka confirmed there were still numerous critical vulnerabilities, too many open ports into their infrastructure and internet access to their archive server due to weak security. Kubecka explained how each data security issue was discovered in detail in a full-length book titled Down the Rabbit Hole: An OSINT Journey.
Leak and leak journalismEdit
Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, called the leak "probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents". Edward Snowden described the release in a Twitter message as the "biggest leak in the history of data journalism". The ICIJ also said that the leak was "likely to be one of the most explosive [leaks of inside information in history] in the nature of its revelations".
"This is a unique opportunity to test the effectiveness of leaktivism", said Micah White, co-founder of Occupy, "... the Panama Papers are being dissected via an unprecedented collaboration between hundreds of highly credible international journalists who have been working secretly for a year. This is the global professionalization of leaktivism. The days of WikiLeaks amateurism are over."
WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic investigative journalist who worked on Cablegate in 2010, said withholding some documents for a time does maximise the leak's impact, but called for full online publication of the Panama Papers eventually. A tweet from WikiLeaks criticized the decision of the ICIJ to not release everything for ethical reasons: "If you censor more than 99% of the documents you are engaged in 1% journalism by definition."
While offshore business entities are not illegal in the jurisdictions where they are registered, and often not illegal at all, reporters found that some Mossack Fonseca shell corporations seem to have been used for illegal purposes including fraud, kleptocracy, tax evasion and evading international sanctions.
Reports from April 3 note the law firm's many connections to high-ranking political figures and their relatives, as well as celebrities and business figures. Among other things, the leaked documents illustrate how wealthy individuals, including public officials, can keep personal financial information private.
Initial reports identified five then-heads of state or government leaders from Argentina, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates as well as government officials, close relatives, and close associates of various heads of government of more than forty other countries. Names of then-current national leaders in the documents include President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.
Former heads of state mentioned in the papers include:
- Sudanese president Ahmed al-Mirghani, who was president from 1986–1989 and died in 2008.
- Former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani owned Afrodille S.A., which had a bank account in Luxembourg and shares in two South African companies. Al Thani also held a majority of the shares in Rienne S.A. and Yalis S.A., holding a term deposit with the Bank of China in Luxembourg. A relative owned 25% of these: Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar's former prime minister and foreign minister.
Former prime ministers:
- Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili of Georgia
- Pavlo Lazarenko of Ukraine
- Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a former vice president of Iraq, owned property through Mossack Fonseca shell companies registered in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, for security reasons following an assassination attempt, according to his spokesperson, who added that any income from the properties was reported and taxes paid "promptly and on time."
- Ion Sturza of Moldova.
- Ali Abu al-Ragheb of Jordan.
The leaked files identified 61 family members and associates of prime ministers, presidents and kings, including:
- the brother-in-law of China's paramount leader Xi Jinping
- the son of Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak
- children of former prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif
- children of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev
- Clive Khulubuse Zuma, the nephew of South African president Jacob Zuma
- Nurali Aliyev, the grandson of Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev
- Mounir Majidi, the personal secretary of Moroccan king Mohammed VI
- Kojo Annan, the son of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan
- Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher
- Juan Armando Hinojosa, the "favourite contractor" of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.
- Spanish Royal Family: Infanta Pilar, Duchess of Badajoz and her son Bruno Gómez-Acebes, Iñaki Urdangarín, Amalio de Marichalar, and people close to the family like the mistress of former King Juan Carlos I, Corinna Larsen.
Other clients included less-senior government officials and their close relatives and associates, from over forty countries.
Over £10 million of cash from the sale of the gold stolen in the 1983 Brink's-Mat robbery was laundered, first unwittingly and later with the complicity of Mossack Fonseca, through a Panamanian company, Feberion Inc. The company was set up on behalf of an unnamed client twelve months after the robbery. The Brinks money was put through Feberion and other front companies, through banks in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Jersey, and the Isle of Man. It issued bearer shares only. Two nominee directors from Sark were appointed to Feberion by Jersey-based offshore specialist Centre Services. The offshore firms recycled the funds through land and property transactions in the United Kingdom. Although the Metropolitan Police Service raided the offices of Centre Services in late 1986 in cooperation with Jersey authorities, and seized papers and two Feberion bearer shares, it wasn't until 1995 that Brink's-Mat's solicitors were finally able to take control of Feberion and the assets.
Law firms play a central role in offshore financial operations. Mossack Fonseca is one of the biggest in its field and the biggest financial institutions refer customers to it. Its services to clients include incorporating and operating shell companies in friendly jurisdictions on their behalf. They can include creating "complex shell company structures" that, while legal, also allow the firm's clients "to operate behind an often impenetrable wall of secrecy". The leaked papers detail some of their intricate, multilevel, and multinational corporate structures. Mossack Fonseca has acted with global consultancy partners like Emirates Asset Management Ltd, Ryan Mohanlal Ltd, Sun Hedge Invest and Blue Capital Ltd on behalf of more than 300,000 companies, most of them registered in the British Overseas Territories.
Leaked documents also indicate that the firm would also backdate documents on request and, based on a 2007 exchange of emails in the leaked documents, it did so routinely enough to establish a price structure: $8.75 per month in the past. In 2008, Mossack Fonseca hired a 90-year-old British man to pretend to be the owner of the offshore company of Marianna Olszewski, a US businesswoman, "a blatant breach of anti-money laundering rules" according to the BBC.
The anonymity of offshore shell companies can also be used to circumvent international sanctions, and more than 30 Mossack Fonseca clients were at one time or another blacklisted by the US Treasury Department, including businesses linked to senior figures in Russia, Syria and North Korea.
Three Mossack Fonseca companies started for clients of Helene Mathieu Legal Consultants were later sanctioned by the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Pangates International Corporation was accused in July 2014 of supplying the government of Syria with "a large amount of specialty petroleum products" with "limited civilian application in Syria." The other two, Maxima Middle East Trading and Morgan Additives Manufacturing Co, and their owners Wael Abdulkarim and Ahmad Barqawi, were said to have "engaged in deceptive measures" to supply oil products to Syria.
Mossack Fonseca also ran six businesses for Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, despite US sanctions against him. Internal Mossack Fonseca documents show that in 2011 Mossack Fonseca rejected a recommendation by their own compliance team to sever ties to Mr. Makhlouf. They agreed to do so only months later. The firm has said it never knowingly allowed anyone connected with rogue regimes to use its companies.
Frederik Obermaier, co-author of the Panama Papers story and an investigative reporter at the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, told Democracy Now: "Mossack Fonseca realised that Makhlouf was the cousin, and they realised that he was sanctioned, and they realised that he's allegedly one of the financiers of the Syrian regime. And they said, 'Oh, there is this bank who still does business with him, so we should still keep with him, as well'."
HSBC also appeared to reassure Mossack Fonseca not only that it was "comfortable" with Makhlouf as a client but suggested there could be a rapprochement with the Assad family by the US. Makhlouf is already known to be a long-standing client of HSBC's Swiss private bank, holding at least $15 million with it in multiple accounts in 2006. The Panamanian files also show HSBC provided financial services to a Makhlouf company called Drex Technologies, which HSBC said was a company of "good standing".
DCB Finance, a Virgin Islands-based shell company founded by a North Korean banker Kim Chol-sam and British banker Nigel Cowie also ignored international sanctions and continued to do business with North Korea with the help of the Panamanian firm. The US Treasury Department in 2013 called DCB Finance a front company for Daedong Credit Bank and announced sanctions against both companies for providing banking services to North Korean arms dealer Korea Mining and Development Trading Corporation, attempting to evade sanctions against that country, and helping to sell arms and expand North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. Cowie said the holding company was used for legitimate business and he was not aware of illicit transactions.
Mossack Fonseca, required by international banking standards to avoid money-laundering or fraudster clients, is like all banks supposed to be particularly alert for signs of corruption with politically exposed persons (PEP), in other words, clients who either are or have close ties to government officials. However they somehow failed to turn up any red flags concerning Tareq Abbas even though he shares a family name with the president of Palestine, and sat on the board of directors of a company with four fellow directors the firm did deem PEP because of their ties to Palestinian politics. Yet Mossack Fonseca actually did and documented due diligence research, including a Google search.
Clients of Mossack FonsecaEdit
Mossack Fonseca has managed more than 300,000 companies over the years. The number of active companies peaked at more than 80,000 in 2009. Over 210,000 companies in twenty-one jurisdictions figure in the leaks. More than half were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, others in Panama, the Bahamas, the Seychelles, Niue, and Samoa. Mossack Fonseca's clients have come from more than 100 countries. Most of the corporate clients were from Hong Kong, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Panama, and Cyprus. Mossack Fonseca worked with more than 14,000 banks, law firms, incorporators, and others to set up companies, foundations, and trusts for their clients. Some 3,100 companies listed in the database appear to have ties to US offshore specialists, and 3,500 shareholders of offshore companies list US addresses. Mossack Fonseca has offices in Nevada and Wyoming.
The leaked documents indicate that about US$2 trillion has passed through the firm's hands. Several of the holding companies that appear in the documents did business with sanctioned entities, such as arms merchants and relatives of dictators, while the sanctions were in place. The firm provided services to a Seychelles company named Pangates International, which the US government believes supplied aviation fuel to the Syrian government during the current civil war, and continued to handle its paperwork and certify it as a company in good standing, despite sanctions, until August 2015.
More than 500 banks registered nearly 15,600 shell companies with Mossack Fonseca, with HSBC and its affiliates accounting for more than 2,300 of the total. Dexia and J. Safra Sarasin of Luxembourg, Credit Suisse from the Channel Islands and the Swiss UBS each requested at least 500 offshore companies for their clients. An HSBC spokesman said, "The allegations are historical, in some cases dating back 20 years, predating our significant, well-publicized reforms implemented over the last few years."
|Luxembourg||Experta Corporate & Trust Services (100% subsidiary of BIL)||1,659|
|Luxembourg||Banque J. Safra Sarasin – Luxembourg S.A.||963|
|Guernsey||Credit Suisse Channel Islands Limited||918|
|Monaco||HSBC Private Bank (Monaco) S.A.||778|
|Switzerland||HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) S.A.||733|
|Switzerland||UBS AG (subsidiary Rue du Rhône in Ginebra)||579|
|Jersey||Coutts & Co Trustees (Jersey) Limited||487|
|Luxembourg||Société Générale Bank & Trust Luxembourg||465|
|Luxembourg||Landsbanki Luxembourg S.A.||404|
|Guernsey||Rothschild Trust Guernsey Limited||378|
Responses by Mossack FonsecaEdit
In response to queries from the Miami Herald and ICIJ, Mossack Fonseca issued a 2,900-word statement listing legal requirements that prevent using offshore companies for tax avoidance and total anonymity, such as FATF protocols which require identifying ultimate beneficial owners of all companies (including offshore companies) before opening any account or transacting any business.
On Monday, April 4, Mossack Fonseca released another statement:
"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."
Firm co-founder Ramón Fonseca Mora told CNN that the reports were false, full of inaccuracies and that parties "in many of the circumstances" cited by the ICIJ "are not and have never been clients of Mossack Fonseca." The firm provided longer statements to ICIJ.
In its official statement April 6, Mossack Fonseca suggested that responsibility for any legal violations might lie with other institutions:
approximately 90% of our clientele is comprised of professional clients... who act as intermediaries and are regulated in the jurisdiction of their business. These clients are obliged to perform due diligence on their clients in accordance with the KYC and AML regulations to which they are subject.
He said the leak was not an "inside job"—the company had been hacked by servers based abroad. It filed a complaint with the Panamanian attorney general's office.
On April 7, 2016 Mossack resigned from Panama's Council on Foreign Relations (Conarex), even though he was not officially serving at the time. His brother Peter Mossack still serves as honorary Consul of Panama, as he has since 2010.
On May 5, 2016, Mossack Fonseca sent a cease and desist letter to the ICIJ in an attempt to stop the ICIJ from releasing the leaked documents from the Panama Papers scandal. Despite this, the ICIJ released the leaked documents, on May 9, 2016.
Responses in PanamaEdit
At 5:00 am on April 3, as the news first broke, Ramón Fonseca Mora (co-founder of Mossack Fonseca) told television channel TVN. he "was not responsible nor he had been accused in any tribunal [tried in any court]".
He said the firm was the victim of a hack and that he had no responsibility for what clients did with the offshore companies that they purchased from Mossack Fonseca, which were legal under Panamanian law. Later that day, the Independent Movement (MOVIN)[note 1] called for calm, and expressed hope that the Panamanian justice system would not allow the culprits to go with impunity.
By April 8, the government understood media reports were addressing tax evasion not attacking the country of Panama. The president met on Wednesday April 7, with CANDIF, a committee of representatives from different sectors of the economy which includes the Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Industry and Agriculture, the National Lawyers Association, the International Lawyers Association, the Banking Association and the Stock Exchange, and entered full crisis management mode. He announced the creation of a new judiciary tribunal and a high-level commission led by Nobel Prize Laureate Joseph Stiglitz.[when?]
Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado, Vice President of Panama, said in an op-ed piece published April 21 in The Guardian that President Juan Carlos Varela and his administration have strengthened Panama's controls over money-laundering in the twenty months they have been in power, and that "Panama is setting up an independent commission, co-chaired by the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, to evaluate our financial system, determine best practices, and recommend measures to strengthen global financial and legal transparency. We expect its findings within the next six months, and will share the results with the international community."
However, in early August 2016, Stiglitz resigned from the committee because he learned that the Panamanian government would not commit to making their final report public. He said that he had always "assumed" that the final report would be transparent.
On April 8, President Varela denounced France's proposal to return Panama to a list of countries that did not cooperate with information exchange. Minister of the Presidency Alvaro Alemán categorically denied that Panama is a tax haven, and said the country would not be a scapegoat. Alemán said that talks with the French ambassador to Panama had begun.
On April 25, a meeting of the Panamanian and French finance ministers resulted in an agreement under which Panama will provide information to France about French nationals with taxable assets in the country.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance of Panama, Dulcidio de la Guardia, formerly an offshore specialist at Mossack Fonseca competitor Morgan & Morgan, said the legal but often "murky" niche of establishing offshore accounts, firms and trusts make up "less than half a percentage point" of Panama's GDP. He appeared to suggest that publication of the papers was an attack on Panama because of the high level of economic growth that the country had shown.
Eduardo Morgan of the Panamanian firm Morgan & Morgan accused the OECD of starting the scandal to avoid competition from Panama with the interests of other countries. The Panama Papers affect the image of Panama in an unfair manner and have come to light not as the result of an investigation, but of a hack, said Adolfo Linares, president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap).
The Colegio Nacional de Abogados de Panama (CNA) urged the government to sue. Political analyst Mario Rognoni said that the world perceives Panama as a tax haven. The government of President Juan Carlos Varela might become implicated if he tries to cover up for those involved, Rognoni said.
Economist Rolando Gordon said the affair hurts Panama, which has just emerged from the greylist of the FATF, and added that each country, especially Panama, must conduct investigations and determine whether illegal or improper acts were committed.
Panama's Lawyers Movement called the Panama Papers leak "cyber bullying" and in a press conference condemned it as an attack on the 'Panama' brand. Fraguela Alfonso, its president, said called it a direct attack on the country's financial system.
I invite all organized forces of the country to create a great crusade for the rescue of the country's image
Offshore companies are legal, said Panamanian lawyer and former controller of the republic Alvin Weeden; illegality arises when they are used for money laundering, arms smuggling, terrorism, or tax evasion.
On October 19, 2016, it became known that a government executive had just spent 370 million dollars in order to "clean" the country's image.
On October 22, 2016, in the midst of a state visit to Germany, Varela told journalist Jenny Pérez, of Deutsche Welle that there had been "progress" in transparency and many agreements to exchange tax information, and that tax evasion was a global problem. Asked about his ties with Ramón Fonseca Mora, managing partner of the firm Mossack Fonseca, he acknowledged thay he is a friend.
The Procuraduría de la Nación announced that it would investigate Mossack Fonseca and the Panama papers. see On April 12, the newly formed Second Specialized Prosecutor against Organized Crime raided Mossack Fonseca and searched their Bella Vista office as part of the investigation initiated by the Panama Papers. The Attorney General's office issued a press release following the raid, which lasted 27 hours, stating that the purpose was "to obtain documents relevant to the information published in news articles that establishes the possible use of the law firm in illegal activities." The search ended without measures against the law firm, confirmed prosecutor Javier Caraballo of the Second Prosecutor Against Organized Crime.
On April 22 the same unit raided another Panama location and "secured a large amount of evidence."
The Municipality of Regulation and Supervision of Financial Subjects [not the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF)] initiated a special review of the law firm Mossack Fonseca to determine whether it had followed tax law. Carlamara Sanchez, in charge of this proceeding, said at a press conference that the quartermaster had come to verify whether the firm had complied since April 8 with due diligence, customer knowledge, the final beneficiary and reporting of suspicious transactions to Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) operations. She said that Law 23 of 2015 empowers regulation and supervision and said some firms had been monitored since late last year with special attention after the Panama Papers, and noted that the law carries fines $5,000 to $1 million or even suspension of the firm.
The ICIJ investigation of Mossack Fonseca was reported to the Public Ministry. Samid Dan Sandoval, former candidate for mayor of Santiago de Veraguas (2014), filed the legal action against the journalists and all those who had participated. He said the project name damaged the integrity, dignity and sovereignty of the country. and that the consortium would have to assume legal responsibility for all damage caused to the Panamanian nation.
A Change.org petition requested the ICIJ stop using the name of Panama as in the Panama Papers. The request said the generally- accepted name for the investigation "damage(d) the image" of Panama.
Suspension of investigationEdit
Attorney General of Panama Kenia Isolda Porcell Diaz announced on January 24, 2017 that he supported the investigations against Mossack Fonseca because it filed an appeal for protection of constitutional rights before the First Superior Court of Justice of Panama and requested that he deliver all the original documents to issue a judgment.[clarification needed]
Mossack and Fonseca were detained February 8, 2017 on money-laundering charges.
Allegations, reactions, and investigationsEdit
Many senior EU figures have been implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. The European Commissioner for Taxation, Pierre Moscovici, has said that the European Union as a whole had a "duty" to prevent the kind of tax avoidance uncovered in the Panama Papers scandal. Moscovici told reporters the use of offshore companies to hide what he called "shocking amounts" of financial assets from tax authorities was "unethical". He estimated that the tax shelters resulted in an annual loss of some €1 trillion in public finances, adding that the European Commission has attempted to tighten tax rules across the union since November 2014 due to the Luxembourg Leaks scandal, also revealed by the ICIJ, and that he hoped the extent of the Panama Papers revelations would spur countries to action.
In a 2013 letter, unearthed by the Financial Times to the then president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron said that offshore trusts should not automatically be subject to the same transparency requirements as shell companies.
The Panama Papers revealed that the Minister of Finance of Andorra, Jordi Cinca, while he was CEO of Orfund SA, maintained an offshore company called Mariette Holdings Inc, until its dissolution in 2002 for fear of discovery of his participation in these businesses. The business activities of Orfund had ties to the blood diamond trade, and the refining and sale of African gold. This company closed shortly before the civil war in Ivory Coast.
The opposition demanded his resignation as a result. In response Cinca said that "if their connection would affect the Government of Andorra, will step down." Still, he did not.
Austria's financial market authority has announced that they will audit two Austrian banks that were mentioned in the Panama Papers – Raiffeisenbank International (RBI) and Hypo Vorarlberg. It will be specifically examining whether the banks have complied with their obligation to prevent money laundering. Hypo Vorarlberg subsequently announced that while they have complied with all laws in the past, they are planning to retreat completely from the offshore sector.
Central Bank of Cyprus officially declared: "With regard to press reports citing leaked documents, known as the Panama Papers, the Central Bank of Cyprus announces that it is assessing the information to the extent that it may concern the Cypriot banking system and taking, where necessary, appropriate action." A Cypriot online paper said "The Cyprus link stems from the fact that Fonseca runs an office in Cyprus and, more specifically, in Limassol. In a chart, the leaks name Cyprus as a tax haven (countries that offer little or no tax), although it has a corporate tax rate of 12.5%, the same as Ireland."
French financial prosecutors opened a probe, and President François Hollande declared that tax evaders would be brought to trial and punished. Also as a result of the leak, France restored Panama to its list of tax havens, from which Panama had recently been removed.
Former French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac, who spearheaded a crackdown on tax fraud while in office, was a client of Mossack Fonseca and through them owned a Seychelles company named Cerman Group Limited, incorporated in 2009. When France investigated 2013 allegations by Mediapart that in 2000 Cahuzac had held undeclared assets in an account first in Switzerland, then Singapore, he resigned his cabinet post, protesting his innocence, but admitted a few months later that he indeed had hidden €600,000 in a UBS account and then moved it to keep it hidden, "while continuing to lead France's clampdown on tax evasion." The French Socialist Party unanimously voted to expel him a week later. On the heels of the April 2013 "Cahuzac affair", President Hollande created the parquet national financier (PNF), a judiciary investigation unit specializing in large-scale fraud and corruption investigations.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder and long-time leader of the far-right-wing Front National (FN) and now a member of the European Parliament, already was the subject, along with his daughter Marine Le Pen and his staff, of a PNF tax fraud investigation. Drawing official scrutiny were an undeclared HSBC account containing €2.2m in gold and coins, managed from Geneva by an aide through a trust based in the British Virgin Islands which was closed and then moved to the Bahamas in 2014; allegations of overbilling; misuse and comingling of campaign funds; and tax evasion. Jean-Marie Le Pen is also suspected of using his European Parliament funds for the campaign and administrative expenses of his French political party. Jean-Marie Le Pen is mentioned in the documents, along with his daughter Marine Le Pen, who is the current party leader, and Frederic Chatillon, an FN insider who is also a close friend of Marine. Among the three of them, they may have hidden as much as a million pounds in offshore accounts.
Bidzina Ivanishvili became wealthy in Russia before returning to Georgia and becoming prime minister in 2012; his public official's asset declaration was 72 pages long. However, he does not list Lynden Management, a Mossack Fonseca company which held about 20% of the shares of Raptor Pharmaceuticals (which he did declare), a US-based company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He refused for nearly four years to provide a copy of his passport and a proof of address to the law firm, which needed it to comply with money-laundering regulations as well as inquiries into the company by the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands.
Forbes calculates Ivanishvili's net worth at $4.8 billion.
The Panama Papers confirmed that the politician Stavros Papastavrou, who was advisor of former Prime Ministers Kostas Karamanlis and Antonis Samaras, had been a member of the council of the Panamanian foundations, Green Shamrock Foundation and Diman Foundation, from 2005 to 2014. In 2006, he became deputy chairman of the Aisios Foundation, that still exists today. However, Papstavrou resigned from the Aisios Foundation in 2012.
A number of Greek families with significant art collections were implicated in this scandal.
Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, elected after the 2008 banking collapse in Iceland, had pledged to clean up corruption in the banking system. But when Sigmundur Davíð took his seat he did not disclose his 50% interest of Wintris, a company that owned bonds of one of the bankrupt banks nor divest himself of it until the day before a new law took effect on January 1, 2010 that would have required him to declare this conflict of interest. He sold his share to his wife, who owns the other half. The couple both come from wealthy families. When they bought Wintris he was working as a journalist and she is an anthropologist. Until his failure to disclose the asset, he apparently broke no laws. But the country remembers the 2008 financial crisis all too well and thought it had put it in the past. Since Sigmundur Davíð negotiated on behalf of Iceland with creditors of failed Icelandic banks, the discovery that Sigmundur Davíð's wife is a bondholder caused so much outrage that 22,000–24,000 people attended an anti-government protest outside the parliament on April 4, 2016, almost 8% of the population. Sigmundur Davíð suggested a snap election, but the other members of the coalition government did not want elections, just his resignation. On April 5, 2016, Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson announced his resignation.
The Reykjavik Grapevine and the news site Kjarninn revealed that President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson had connections to Lasca Finance Limited, registered in 2005 in the British Virgin Islands. Ólafur Ragnar had categorically denied any personal or family ties to companies in tax havens. The parents of his wife, Dorrit Moussaieff, operated the company 1999–2005. The financial statements of the Moussaieff family business show it received nearly £7 million ($10.2 million US, €9.1 million) in interest payments from Lasca during 2000–2005. In 2005 Moussaieff Jewelers Limited sold its 10% stake of Lasca to S. Dorrit Moussaieff's deceased father and her mother, now 86 years old and the registered owner of the Lasca ownership stake. Dorrit and her sisters Tamara and Sharon will inherit her fortune, considered among the largest in the world.
Bjarni Benediktsson, Iceland's finance minister and the chairman of Gunnlaugsson's coalition partner, comes from one of Iceland's wealthiest families. He confirmed that he owned 33% of Falson & Co., a Seychelles shell company founded in 2005 to purchase real estate in Dubai. It was still active in 2009, when Benediktsson was already a member of parliament with financial disclosure requirements. He said he registered the company with tax authorities, and he wasn't aware it was registered in the Seychelles. Minister of the Interior Ólöf Nordal and her husband had powers of attorney for Dooley Securities S.A., an offshore company located in Panama. She said that the company was founded for her husband but was never used, so she did not think she had to disclose it. Hrólfur Ölvisson, the managing director of Gunnlaugsson's Progressive Party, says the Mossack Fonseca companies that list his name have been inactive a very long time, and were legal.
Businesswoman Ingibjörg Pálmadóttir and her husband Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson have for several years financed their business dealings through a Panamanian company, Guru Invest, which owns shares in retailer Sports Direct through Rhapsody Investments (Europe), based in Luxembourg. Guru Invest paid around USD 16 million to Glitnir bank after it crashed to cover the debt of Gaumur, one of Jón Ásgeir's companies, and loaned ISK 100 million to Jón Ásgeir's company Þú Blásól through an offshore company he owns named Jovita. Asked by journalists at Kjarninn where that money came from, Ingibjörg did not reply. Ingibjörg is the primary owner of the 365 media group, which owns the Icelandic news outlets Vísir.is, television channel Stöð 2 and radio stations Bylgjan, X-ið and FM 957, none of which seem to be reporting this disclosure.
Former long-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had been already convicted for tax evasion and expelled from the Parliament, was included in the papers. Other notable people whose names are mentioned in the Papers include entrepreneurs Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Flavio Briatore, Adriano Galliani, and actor Carlo Verdone.
An investigation by ICIJ partner The Namibian found that the imprisoned mafioso Vito Roberto Palazzolo shielded his finances from Italian, Namibian and South African authorities with shell companies in the British Virgin Islands set up by a German banker in Hong Kong, Wolf-Peter Berthold, which they also used to transfer control of Palazzolo's assets to his son.
The Panama Papers linked a minister in the government of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, and the prime minister's chief of staff, Keith Schembri, to shell companies in Panama. Furthermore, Mizzi's wife, Sai Mizzi Liang, who is Malta's trade envoy to China and Consul General for Malta in Shanghai, China, was also named as beneficiary, together with their children, of a trust based in New Zealand holding Mizzi's Panama shell company.
Mizzi, until 28 April 2016 Minister for Health and Energy, and currently Minister for Tourism, is listed in the Panama Papers as the owner of a Panama shell company called Hearnville Inc.
Indications in the Maltese press of Mizzi's links to an offshore trust did not prevent Mizzi from being elected deputy leader for party affairs of the ruling Labour Party on 25 February 2016, following a change in the party statutes to enable a sitting MP to be appointed. Mizzi stepped down as deputy leader of the Labour Party on 28 April 2016.
Schembri, a businessman who managed the electoral campaign of the Labour Party in the 2013 Maltese general elections, and serves as chief of staff to Muscat, was reported to hold an offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands, and owns an anonymous shell company in Panama, called Tillgate Inc, held by a trust established for him in New Zealand. Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri acquired their shell companies in Panama, Hearnville Inc and Tillgate Inc respectively, via the Mossack Fonseca representatives in Malta, who also tried to open bank accounts linked to the two shell companies of the two politically exposed persons in various jurisdictions. The owner of a third anonymous shell company in Panama, Egrant Inc, whose existence was revealed in the same document referring to the other two companies, remains unknown, although the strict secrecy observed in its acquisition, including the avoidance of e-mail communications and the utilization of communications via Skype, have fuelled strong suspicions that a third top Maltese politically exposed person is involved.
In a 2015 declaration of assets, dated 8 February and submitted to the Maltese Parliament at the end of March 2016, which Muscat said he'd been shown in draft form before the Panama Papers were leaked, Mizzi listed the trust in New Zealand and the shell company in Panama. As of 28 April 2016 a report on the matter commissioned by the Government of Malta by an unnamed international audit firm was still pending. On 28 April 2016 Muscat announced a cabinet reshuffle; Mizzi lost his ministerial portfolio of Health and Energy, but was retained as a minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Malta is the only member of the European Union that have a minister implicated in this scandal and to date. Not withstanding Mizzi and Schembri's involvement in this scandal they still hold very high positions in the Maltese government.
The Norwegian Tax Administration expects to demand access to information from DNB (Norway's largest financial services group) about approximately 30 companies formed by DNB that are owned by Norwegians, 20 of whom are living in Norway. 200 Norwegians are on the client list of Mossack Fonseca.
The ICIJ's Offshore Leaks Database shows that Portugal had 246 Offshore Entities, 300 Officers, 40 Intermediaries and 175 Addresses linked to the activities described in the Mossack-Fonseca papers, with newspapers reporting the involvement of several politicians, government officials, bankers and company managers. As of May 2017, there were no criminal or judicial consequences for any of the involved.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the newspapers participating in the project that made the papers public, described the connections of various individuals listed in them to Russian president Vladimir Putin. They quoted Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman and US State Department documents saying that Russia is a "kleptocracy" and a "mafia state" respectively. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported about $2 billion had moved through a network of companies associated with Russian firms and individuals in "just a few years" and the companies appeared to have been used for "questionable business transactions."
Putin's name does not appear in any of the records released to date, but those of his associates do. Construction billionaires Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, musician Sergei Roldugin and business magnate Alisher Usmanov are mentioned in the leaked documents, as are Putin's long-standing friend, billionaire Gennady Timchenko, as well as his press secretary's spouse, his cousin, and former KGB colleagues, as well as several oligarchs connected to Mossack Fonseca shell companies.
Sergei Roldugin, a cellist with the St Petersburg orchestra who is the godfather of Putin's eldest daughter and who has been described as Putin's "best friend", appears prominently in the Panama Papers. According to the leaked papers, Roldugin acquired assets worth at least $100 million, including a 12.5% stake in Video International (Russia's largest television advertising firm), companies that own stock options for some of Russia's biggest companies and the rights to loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2008, a company controlled by Roldugin joined with several other offshore companies to help "another Putin insider" acquire control of Kamaz, Russia's largest truck manufacturer, and obtain investment from German carmaker Daimler AG, $250 million for 10% of Kamaz. Sandalwood, another company in which Roldugin and other insiders have an interest was issued lines of credit between 2009 and 2012 worth $800,000 by Russian Commercial Bank (RCB) in Cyprus, then a wholly owned subsidiary of VTB Bank, largely owned by the Russian state. Panama Papers documents indicate that Roldugin companies received several loans with no collateral, or at very low interest rates, or never repaid. In 2013, several shell companies linked to the brothers Boris and Arkady Rotenberg loaned worth about US$200 million to a company in Roldugin's network. The leaked documents do not show whether they were repaid. Shortly before the loan was granted, Arkady Rotenberg's company had been awarded the tender for the South Stream pipeline project, worth billions. Asked about his companies, Rodulgin said "I have to take a look and find out what I can say and what I can't", and that financial matters are "delicate".
Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called Western reporting of the Panama Papers "Putinophobia", said that they target Putin and are part of a conspiracy against Russia orchestrated by the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Department of State and others.
Putin denied "any element of corruption", and said his opponents are trying to destabilize Russia. Putin also said: "WikiLeaks has showed us that official people and official organs of the US are behind this." On 2016's annual Direct Line with Vladimir Putin, he called the leaked documents "reliable" but confined his comments to Roldugin, saying that Western media did not understand that the musician has spent all his off-shore income on "musical instruments for Russia". Putin also said Goldman Sachs owned shares in the parent company of Süddeutsche Zeitung, which is in fact owned by a Munich family and a German media group. The Kremlin apologized for this "mistake".
Initially, mainstream Russian media almost entirely ignored the leak. Neither state-owned Channel 1 and Rossiya 1, nor privately owned REN-TV and NTV, mentioned the story on April 4, the day the story broke. The minimal coverage of the story ran in the middle of the night on Vesti TV and was in relation to Lionel Messi and Michel Platini. An exception was the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, described as "the ICIJ's Russian partner", which reported on the story both in hard copy and online.
By the end of April OCCRP published analysis of further batch of the leaked documents demonstrating a cash flow to the Rodulgin accounts from the 2007 tax theft of $230m by Moscow tax inspectors uncovered and reported by Sergei Magnitsky.
Spain and Royal HouseEdit
On April 15, 2016, José Manuel Soria was forced to leave his post as acting Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism when the Panama Papers revealed that he and his family had maintained several offshore societies on tax havens during the previous decades. Soria initially denied this, but reports kept leaking that contradicted him. On April 14, a company came to light that he had owned on Jersey until 2002, while mayor of Las Palmas. Soria was put in a critical political position as a result of his confusing and changing explanations on the issue, and resigned the next day.
He is not the only prominent Spanish politician who had offshore companies.
Former IMF president Rodrigo Rato, vice-president in the conservative government of prime minister José María Aznar, had more than €3.6 million in two offshore companies. He has been charged by Spain with alleged tax offenses, money laundering and corruption among individuals in other cases of corruption. Micaela Domecq-Solís, the wife of Miguel Arias Cañete, currently the European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy and formerly the EU Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment, also opened shell societies.
The Spanish Royal Family is also involved in this tax scandal: Princess Pilar of Borbón, Duchess of Badajoz, sister of former King Juan Carlos I and aunt of the current King, Felipe VI, had an offshore corporation for 40 years, until the abdication of her brother. She assembled a company called Delantera Financiera, in 1974, and was its president and administrator. She initially denied this when her name appeared in the Panama Papers. Her husband, who died in 1991, was secretary-general of the corporation. His son, Bruno Gomez-Acebes, is treasurer and manager of this company. The name of Amalio de Marichalar, the count of Ripalda and the brother of Jaime de Marichalar, the former husband of the king's daughter, Elena de Borbón, also appears.
Moreover, in a huge corruption scandal involving the royal house, Iñaki Urdangarin and his business associate in the Nóos foundation, were advised by Mossack Fonseca to move funds.
Two great-grandchildren of the dictator Francisco Franco, Francisco and Juan José Franco Suelves set up registered societies in the British Virgin Islands through Mossack Fonseca. Juan José Franco opened Malini Investments in 1997, being director in 2012 and closed in 2013. He told the newspaper El Confidencial he was "absolutely ignorant". Francisco Franco Suelves, his older brother, also opened Vamfield Alliance Limited in 1997 as a director.
Oleguer Pujol, son of Jordi Pujol, former President of the Generalitat of Catalonia considered a linchpin of Catalan independence, granted[clarification needed] the diversion of a commission of 6.8 million euros from the sale of an office to an opaque society, which repaid, with another offshore company, about 5 million more. His Pujol family, parents and children, are charged with several counts of tax fraud and corruption, among other crimes.
The current wife of former prime minister of Spain Felipe González, María García Vaquero, opened an account in Switzerland for Carmingo Ltd in 2004 in the tax haven of Niue, an island in the South Pacific. The lawyer Cándido Conde-Pumpido Jr., son of former General Prosecutor of Spain and magistrate of the Supreme Court of Spain, Cándido Conde-Pumpido, asked to open a Mossack Fonseca offshore company in 2008, though the transaction wasn't completed[why?]. He had intended the offshore company to be an intermediary in a project to build a skyscraper in the capital of Panama, not to hide money.
Top bankers and Spanish businessmen used this firm to open accounts and companies: Miguel Blesa, president of Caja Madrid, tried in Spanish courts for numerous cases of corruption, Jesus Barderas, a businessman close to ex-prime minister Felipe González, children of the lawyer Javier de la Rosa, who also is linked to corruption cases, Carlos Ortega, CEO of Pepe Jeans, and families with major hotel chains such as the Riu (RIU Hotels & Resorts), the Escarrer (Meliá Hotels International) and the Martinón (Group Martinón).
Art collectors Marina Ruiz-Picasso and Borja Thyssen have Mossack Fonseca companies. Thyssen's lawyer said his company was fully declared to tax authorities and Ruiz-Picasso declined comment. Other celebrities involved include Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who won an Oscar in 2003 for Habla con ella and with his brother Agustin created a company in 1991 called Glen Valley in the British Virgin Islands. Agustin responded saying he closed the company in 1994 and it paid all of its taxes.
Showbiz personality Carmen Lomana said that after the death of her husband, owner of the offshore company, she took care of it but without knowing anything at all about the business or about tax. Bertín Osborne, host and Spanish singer, and the famous actor Imanol Arias, protagonist of one of the longest and most important series of the Spanish television, Cuéntame cómo pasó, were named. Osborne said his account was legal and that he used it as recommended, to save money. He is also involved in a scandal over fraud to the Treasury, with actress and fellow protagonist on the series, Ana Duato. Juan Luis Cebrián, journalist, co-founder of El País, and CEO of Prisa, a Spanish media conglomerate, owns 2% of Star Petroleum, a related oil corporation with tax havens. After being named, he decided to take legal action against La Sexta, who revealed his involvement in this scandal.
The former president of FC Barcelona, Josep Lluís Núñez, the current vicepresident, Carles Vilarrubí, and Eduardo Fernando de Blas, the vicepresident of Real Madrid, had offshore companies with Mossack Fonseca.
The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (FI) said on April 4, 2016, it would investigate the actions of Nordea, one of the largest financial institutions in the Nordic countries, after the Panama Papers revealed the bank's Luxembourg office had helped to set up nearly 400 offshore companies for its clients between 2004 and 2014 in Panama and the British Virgin Islands for their customers.
The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (FI) has said that "serious deficiencies" exist in how Nordea monitors for money laundering, and had given the bank two warnings. In 2015 Nordea had to pay the largest possible fine—over five million EUR. In 2012 Nordea asked Mossack Fonseca to change documents retroactively so that three Danish customers' power of attorney documents would appear to have been in force since 2010. The director for Nordea Private Banking, Thorben Sanders, has admitted that before 2009 Nordea did not screen for tax evaders: "In the end of 2009 we decided that our bank shall not be a means of tax evasion," said Sanders. Other Swedish banks are also present in the documents, but Nordea occurs 10,902 times and the next most frequently mentioned bank only occurs 764 times. The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (FI) later said that they would also investigate the other three big banks in Sweden: Handelsbanken, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) and Swedbank.
In response to the leaks, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said he is very critical of Nordea's conduct and role, and Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson characterized the bank's conduct as "totally unacceptable".
On April 6, the federal police searched UEFA headquarters in Nyon as part of a "criminal mismanagement" probe into a Champions League television rights deal signed by FIFA's new president Gianni Infantino. The same day, Geneva's attorney general opened several procedures in reaction to a report about misconduct by Swiss lawyers and trustees.
On April 8, a few hours after the publication of a new series of articles focusing on art hidden behind offshore companies, a prosecutor sequestered a Modigliani worth some $25 million at Geneva Freeport. Litigation in New York alleged the painting had been stolen by Nazis during World War II; the defendants said they did not own it, but the leaked documents show that they control International Art Center, a shell company registered in Panama which does own it.
The leaked papers also shed light on the ownership of shell companies in protracted litigation in Lausanne over ownership of artwork from the Gstaad chalet of the late Greek shipping tycoon Basil Goulandris.
On April 11, another investigation into the abuse of the name of charities like Red Cross or WWF was launched.
Swiss-based Diacore is a Mossack Fonseca client, and has approximately thirty companies through them. Diacore is run by Daniel Steinmetz, but until recently his brother Beny Steinmetz had a power of attorney for the company. Diacore is part of the Steinmetz Group.
When Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko took office in 2014, a popular uprising had just toppled his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych. Poroshenko pledged to sell his candy business (Roshen) if elected, but leaked documents indicate that on August 21, 2014 he instead had Mossack Fonseca set up offshore holding company Prime Asset Partners Ltd in the British Virgin Islands and moved his company there, roughly two months after the election. The move had the potential to save him millions of dollars on his Ukrainian taxes. Records in Cyprus show him as the firm's only shareholder. Some legal experts say the explanation may be sound; however this isn't making a difference to Ukrainian media making the point that Poroshenko opened his offshore account in August 2014 as Ukrainian soldiers were being massacred by the Russians in Ilovaisk. The Panama Papers report may also have figured in the defeat of a trade deal with the Netherlands in a referendum there on April 6.
Anti-corruption group Transparency International believes that the "creation of businesses while serving as president is a direct violation of the constitution". Also, journalists from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project believe that with the move Poroshenko committed two other illegalities, starting a new business while in office and failing afterwards to report it on his disclosure statements. Poroshenko denied any wrongdoing and a spokesman said the offshore company had no active assets and was a legitimate corporate restructure aimed at helping to sell Poroshenko's Roshen group. Analysts in Ukraine responded that the secretive way Poroshenko set up these accounts was certain to undermine trust in him, his party and Ukraine itself.
The news about Poroshenko's offshore business came as his government campaigned against offshore companies. Oleh Lyashko, leader of the Radical Party, urged lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings, and even some of his allies backed calls for a parliamentary commission to investigate the allegations.
In the Ukrainian Parliament, relations between the Poroshenko bloc and the People's Front party of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had over previous months already soured, with mutual accusations of corruption. The Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also announced he would resign over Panama Papers leaks.
According to The Guardian, "More than £170bn of UK property is now held overseas. ... Nearly one in 10 of the 31,000 tax haven companies that own British property are linked to Mossack Fonseca."
Included among the Panama Paper documents are the names of six members of the House of Lords, several of whom have been donors to Cameron's Conservative Party, as well as other Conservative donors. These include:
- Anthony Bamford: £4 million in Conservative Party donations, made a Conservative life peer in 2013;
- David Rowland: £3.8 million in Conservative Party donations, former party treasurer;
- Fleming Family & Partners: Over £400,000 in Conservative Party donations, including direct donations to David Cameron;
- Juniper Equities Trading: £250,000 loan to the Conservative Party from an offshore fund with an opaque ownership structure;
- Tony Buckingham: £100,000 donation to the Conservative Party;
- Lord Ashcroft: the man who published "piggate" allegations about Cameron;
- Baroness Pamela Sharples (via her Bahamas company Nunswell Investments Limited): made a life peer in 1973;
- Former MP Michael Mates via his company Haylandale: claimed his company "never had any real value" and registered interests with Parliament.
As the United Kingdom still exercises varying degrees of control over British Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies which make up a large number of the many tax havens and "secrecy jurisdictions" that exist, pressure mounted on Prime Minister David Cameron to make changes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Panama Papers "are shining a light on the constellation of offshore centers in the last remnants of the British Empire, from Gibraltar to the British Virgin Islands (BVI)." Of the companies created by Mossack Fonseca which were included in the leaked data, the BVI companies topped the list, with 113,000 of the nearly 215,000 companies that Mossack Fonseca managed or incorporated there. British Overseas Territory Anguilla was 7th on the list.
Cameron criticized complex offshore structures in 2013, saying that it is "not fair and not right what some [companies] are doing by saying 'I've got lots of sales here in the UK but I'm going to pay a sort of royalty fee to another company that I own in another country that has some special tax dispensation.'" He said he would bring up the issue at the G8 summit that year. At the summit, Cameron demanded more transparency, arguing that it would be better for business. In 2014, Cameron asked all Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies to set up an open register of firms and individuals with investments registered in their jurisdictions, but by the time of the Panama Papers leak in April 2016, only Montserrat and Gibraltar had agreed to do so.
Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn said "The government needs to stop pussyfooting around on tax dodging" and called for "direct rule" to be imposed over British Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies that act as tax havens. Former Business Secretary Vince Cable agreed, although former attorney general Dominic Grieve described the proposal as a "bit of a nuclear option" which would "destroy the livelihoods" of BVI inhabitants in the finance industry. The Labour Party also said that Cameron's planned "anti-corruption" summit in May would be "a charade" if Cameron, as chairman of the summit, did not require representatives of all Crown dependencies and overseas territories to attend.
Jennie Granger, a spokeswoman for HMRC, said that the department had received "a great deal of information on offshore companies, including in Panama, from a wide range of sources, which is currently the subject of intensive investigation". She said HMRC had asked ICIJ to share all its data.
Private Eye revealed that Edward Troup, appointed executive chair of HMRC in April 2016, was a former partner with Simmons & Simmons, the London-based legal firm whose clients included the Panama-registered fund created by David Cameron's father, Blairmore Holdings. Papers obtained by the Süddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ reveal Simmons & Simmons' close relationship with running offshore companies and major overseas property owners, including an investment company run on behalf of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, while Troup was its senior tax partner.
Blairmore Holdings, Inc.Edit
Ian Cameron, the late father of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, ran an offshore fund (Blairmore Holdings, Inc.) through Mossack Fonseca that avoided UK taxes for 30 years. His company moved to Ireland after David Cameron became Prime Minister. On April 6, Cameron admitted that he had owned shares in Blairmore, but said he sold his shares before becoming PM.
Prominent politicians criticized the involvement of the Cameron family in the scandal; Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn urged an immediate independent investigation into the tax affairs of Cameron's family as well as tighter laws on UK tax avoidance. Opponents also called for Cameron's resignation after he admitted owning shares in Blairmore.
The Panama Papers show Major-General of Justice and head of Armenia's Compulsory Enforcement Service Mihran Poghosyan was connected to three Panama-registered companies: Sigtem Real Estates Inc., Hopkinten Trading Inc., and Bangio Invest S.A., which issued bearer shares only. Poghosyan, who has a degree in economics, was the sole owner of Sigtem and Hopkinten, which together owned Best Realty Ltd, recently awarded government contracts.
Poghosian resigned April 18, saying that it was unacceptable that he had caused Armenia's name to be mentioned alongside that of Azerbaijan, whose president Ilham Aliyev "actually embezzled billions of dollars."
On April 8, Armenian Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center filed a petition with the Ethics Committee for High Level Officials, requesting an investigation of Poghosyan. Members of the families of Poghosyan's uncles Grigor and Mikhail Haroutyunyan were also mentioned in connection with his business.
Varuzhan Hotkanian, head of the Armenian branch of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, said that perhaps Poghosian was forced to resign by the country's leadership, since the evidence pointed directly to him. But, he said, he still questions the government's commitment to fighting corruption. Leading opposition figure Levon Zourabian demanded answers on the matter from the floor of Parliament.
Azerbaijan International Mineral Resources Operating Company Ltd (AIMROC) and its consortium partners spent nearly US$230 million to open a mine and build a refinery in the western Azerbaijani village of Chovdar. AIMROC possibly produced US$30 million in gold before suddenly disappearing without making payroll in May 2014. Mine employees officially remain on vacation and under Azerbaijani law full-time employees cannot seek work elsewhere even though they have not been paid for two years.
A 2012 investigation, by Radio Free Europe and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) discovered that through overseas holding companies, the daughters of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev owned an interest in a gold mine operation created by a 2006 presidential decree forming a consortium, then awarding it a 30-year lease over environmental and transparency objections in Parliament.
But the Panama Papers made it possible to trace some of the elaborate network of shell companies that manage the ownership of the mines, and in 2016 OCCRP was able to establish that in fact the daughters control the mining operation.
Aliyev awarded the gold mines to Globex International LLP, Londex Resources S.A., Willy & Meyris S.A. and Fargate Mining Corporation. Thirty percent of the proceeds were allocated to the government of Azerbaijan; 11% of the remaining 70% went to Globex, 45% to Londex, 29% to Willy & Meyris and the remaining 15% to Fargate.
These companies were registered in Panama, according to the documents obtained from Panama Registry of Companies. A one of them, Fargate Mining Corporation was founded by Tagiva Management Ltd., Tagiva Services Ltd. and Verda Management Ltd. They issued the General Power of Attorney granted in favour of Azerbaijan-born individual Mr. Nasib Hasanov. Later, Londex Resources S.A, Globex International LLP, Fargate Mining Corporation and Willy&Meyris S.A. had been registered again at St. Kitts and Nevis with same addresses. It already used for registering other offshore energy holding – The Nobel Oil Ltd., partner of the state oil company SOCAR in Azerbaijan over Umid gas field. Founder of Nobel Oil Group also is Mr. N.Hasanov.
The 2012 investigation's reporters, established that Globex was owned through shell companies in Panama, and that these shell companies belonged to the president's daughters and a Swiss businessman whose name appears in other shell companies such as those that manage Azerphone, the family telecommunications monopoly. Villagers told reporters they hoped to work at the mine, which paid $12 a day, and asked them to intervene with the president about the problems the mine was causing with the water supply. They became angry and did not believe the reporters when they said the president's family had a stake in the mine.
Following the May publication of this report, the National Assembly passed a law making it illegal to report company ownership and another giving former presidents and first ladies lifelong legal immunity. Khadija Ismayilova, the Radio Free Europe reporter on the 2012 investigation was subjected to escalating legal and public harassment. She was threatened and eventually arrested. She is currently serving a 7.5 year sentence for tax evasion and abuse of power.
Leaked Mossack Fonseca documents made it possible to establish that the daughters also owned Londex, the majority partner in the gold enterprise. It is not entirely clear why they shut the operation down but industry experts familiar with the consortium say it did not seem very experienced and may have rushed into production.
According to the ICIJ, Aliyev's daughter Arzu not only has financial stakes not only in gold rights but also in Azerfon, the country's largest mobile phone business. She has shares in SW Holding, which "controls nearly every operation related to Azerbaijan Airlines" (Azal), from meals to airport taxis. Both sisters and their brother Heydar own property in Dubai valued at roughly $75 million in 2010; Heydar is the legal owner of nine luxury mansions in Dubai purchased for some $44 million.
Leaked documents show that daughters Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva both hold shares in Exaltation Limited, incorporated in April 2015 for "holding UK property". Child & Child, a London law firm that registered it and obtained nominee directors for it though the Jersey branch of Mossack, claimed in doing so that the women had no political connections.
The family of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev leads a well-off life thanks in part to financial interests in various sectors of the nation's economy. His wife ascendants are privileged and powerful family that owns banks, insurance and construction companies, a television station and a line of cosmetics. She is well known for her pre-eminent charity work that has led to the construction of schools, hospitals and the country’s major sports complex.
On April 7, 2016, the Anti Corruption Commission Bangladesh launched an inquiry to obtain details of the businesses and individuals allegedly affiliated with Mossack Fonseca. Allegations have been made against thirty-two Bangladeshi individuals and two corporations, however, media outlets staking this claim have referenced an old ICIJ database of information compiled during the investigation of the 2013 Offshore Leaks.
Relatives of highly placed Chinese officials including seven current and former senior leaders of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China have been named, including former Premier Li Peng's daughter Li Xiaolin, former Communist Party general secretary Hu Yaobang's son Hu Dehua and Deng Jiagui, the brother-in-law of current general secretary Xi Jinping. Deng had two shell companies in the British Virgin Islands while Xi was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, but they were dormant by the time Xi became General Secretary of the Communist Party (paramount leader) in November 2012. Others named include the son and daughter-in-law of propaganda chief Liu Yunshan and the son-in-law of Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.
Official Chinese statistics show investment in British Overseas Territories acting as tax havens being much more significant than in other places: $44 billion invested in the Cayman Islands and $49 billion in the British Virgin Islands. Despite these figures "probably exclud[ing] the private investments of the many family members of the ruling elite who have channelled money through the BVI", both figures exceed Chinese investment in the United States and United Kingdom.
China's government is suppressing mention of the Panama Papers on social media and in search engines results, and reportedly told news organizations to delete all content related to the Panama Papers leak. Chinese authorities consider the material a concerted foreign media attack on China, and ordered Internet information offices to delete reports reprinted from the Panama Papers, and with no exceptions not to follow up on related content. Hong Lei, spokesman for China's foreign ministry, responded that he had "no comment" for "such groundless accusations" at an April 5 news conference.
A screenshot showed that authorities had forced all websites to delete content about the Panama Papers. Foreign websites such as WikiLeaks and China Digital Times are blocked from mainland China. On Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like social media website, censors deleted content about the Panama Paper. However, the name of Xi's brother-in-law got through, and Weibo users tried to circumvent them with less obvious language such as "brother-in-law", "Canal Papers" (for the Panama Canal), and so on. Despite the censorship, Weibo search ranking was topped by phrases seemingly related to the Panama Papers, such as "tax evasion", "document", "leak" and "Putin".
Chinese entertainment magnate and art collector Wang Zhongjun also appears in the documents and did not respond to a request for comment.
Canadian broadcaster Radio Canada has reported that Hong Kong-based CITIC Pacific had Mossack Fonseca set up or manage more than 90 subsidiaries, and that the Chinese government was a majority stakeholder, according to fiscal expert Marwah Rizqy, professor of tax law at the Université de Sherbrooke.
Hong Kong, ChinaEdit
Mossack Fonseca's Hong Kong office was its busiest, says the ICIJ, as Chinese officials and other wealthy figures would carry funds across the border and deposit them there to be channeled to offshore entities. Hong Kong invested HK$4.6 trillion (£360 billion) into the BVI – more than Hong Kong invested in mainland China – and received HK$4.1 trillion (over £300 billion) from the BVI. A further £20 billion or so was placed into the Cayman Islands and Bermuda individually.
Newspaper Ming Pao fired deputy editor Keung Kwok-yuen following a front-page article on the Panama Papers which mentioned many prominent Hong Kong citizens. The paper blamed a "difficult business environment," but had previously fired another editor in 2014 over another leak of offshore documents. Employees have been publishing blank columns scattered through the newspaper in protest of his dismissal.
Bollywood celebrities Amitabh Bachchan, his daughter-in-law and actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and actor Ajay Devgan are listed in the papers. Bachchan has denied any connection to overseas companies, and a spokesman for Rai also questioned the documents' authenticity. Bachchan repeated the denial in response to an August 21 report that he was listed as a director of two companies and participated in board meetings.
Also listed are real estate developer and DLF CEO Kushal Pal Singh, Sameer Gehlaut of the Indiabulls group, and Gautam Adani's elder brother Vinod Adani. Shares of both companies fell following the release of the papers, as well as those of Apollo Tyres, which had also been mentioned. DLF said it had invested in existing overseas companies in compliance with the LRS Scheme set up in 2004 and reported this to the Indian tax agency. An Apollo spokesman said that the family members of Chairman Onkar Kanwar who had been reported as owning offshore companies did not live in India and had complied with the law where they resided. Gehlaut said he had paid full taxes and made full disclosures.
Indian politicians on the list include Shishir Bajoria from West Bengal and Anurag Kejriwal, former chief of the Delhi Lok Satta Party. Bajoria said he owned two other Isle of Man companies but not the one ascribed to him in the leaked documents. Corporate services provider First Names Group acknowledged erroneously providing his information to Mossack Fonseca. MF records show Kejriwal as director of three offshore companies based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and holding two private foundations in Panama and power of attorney of another BVI company. He acknowledged having had offshore companies but said he shut them down after a short period of time.
Indian government ordered an inquiry, and subsequently announced that it was constituting a special multi-agency group comprising officers from the investigative unit of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and its Foreign Tax and Tax Research Division, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Reserve Bank of India.
Some 600 Israeli companies and 850 Israeli shareholders are listed. Among the Israeli names found in the leaked documents are top attorney Dov Weissglass, who was the bureau chief of deceased prime minister Ariel Sharon; Jacob Engel, a businessman active in the African mining industry; and Idan Ofer, a member of one of Israel's wealthiest families, according to Haaretz.
Weissglass' name appears as a sole owner of one of four companies set up by his business partner Assaf Halkin. The company, Talaville Global, was registered in the British Virgin Islands in May 2012, according to Haaretz, and seven months later, all of its shares were mortgaged against a loan from a Vienna bank.
Weissglass and Halkin told Haaretz that the company "was registered for the purpose of receiving a loan from the bank in order to invest in European properties. The bank would only allow a loan to a corporation... [the] company activity is reported to the tax authorities in Israel. The required tax on the said activity is paid in Israel."
Many leaked documents reference Bank Leumi, primarily its branch on the island tax haven of Jersey. One of its customers, billionaire Teddy Sagi, made his fortune developing online gambling technology in England and recently developed the Camden Market commercial real estate space. Sagi is sole shareholder of at least 16 Mossack Fonseca offshore companies, mostly real estate ventures.
Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz was also a Mossack Fonseca customer, with 282 companies.
Nawaz Sharif was the second top official to be ruled out as the result of information disclosures in the Panama Papers. Supreme Court disqualified him from office. One judge said that Mr Sharif was no longer "eligible to be an honest member of the parliament". Pakistan's ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), was permitted by the speaker of the National Assembly to select an interim prime minister until the 2018 general election. The Supreme Court verdict was announced in the context of heightened security in the capital. Over 3,000 armed police and members of the Pakistan Rangers paramilitary force were deployed in the vicinity of the Supreme Court. The verdict followed months of dramatic news coverage and social media debates, the divisions falling largely along party lines.
A hearing October 18, 2017 resulted in an indictment for Sharif, who has faced allegations of corruption since the 1980s. The Panama Papers corroborated a federal inquiry in the mid-1990s and name both Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother, Punjab chief minister Shebaz Sharif. They also link in-laws of Shebaz Sharif and children of Nawaz Sharif to offshore companies. Mossack Fonseca records tie Nawaz' daughter Maryam Nawaz and her brothers Hussein and Hassan to four offshore companies, Nescoll Limited, Nielson Holdings Limited, Coomber Group Inc., and Hangon Property Holdings Limited. The companies acquired luxury real estate in London during 2006–2007. The real estate was collateral for loans of up to $13.8 million, according to the Panama Papers. The prime minister's children say the money came from the sale of a family business in Saudi Arabia. But these offshore companies and assets were not disclosed on his family's wealth statement and the suspicion that the companies were meant to hide or launder ill-gotten wealth or to avoid taxes called Sharif's ethics into question.
Prior to the ruling, Maryam Nawaz had tweeted denial of wrongdoing, adding that she did not own "any company/property abroad," except as "a trustee" in a brother's corporation, "which only entitles me to distribute assets to my brother Hussain's family/children if needed." The leaked documents name her as a trustee of Nescoll, created in 1993, and Nielson, first registered in 1994. The two companies subscribed to Mossack Fonseca services in July 2006. Mossack Fonseca was managing Nescoll, Nielsen Holdings, and Coomber Group when the three companies obtained a £7 million mortgage from the Swiss bank, Deutsche Bank (Suisse) SA and purchased four flats in Avenfield House, at 118 Park Lane in London. Hassan, the other brother, bought Hangon Holdings and its stock in 2007 for £5.5 million; Hangon then bought property, financed through the Bank of Scotland, at 1 Hyde Park Place in London.
Samina Durrani, mother of Shebaz Sharif's second wife, and Ilyas Mehraj, brother of his first, also figure in the documents. Habib Waqas Group/Ilyas Mehraj is listed as a shareholder with 127,735 shares in Haylandale Limited, registered July 24, 2003 in the Bahamas. Mehraj has denied knowing anything about "any company whether incorporated in the Commonwealth of Bahamas or anywhere else under the name: Haylandale Ltd." Rainbow Limited, the newest of the three offshore companies owned by Samina Durrani, was registered September 29, 2010 in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Armani River Limited, registered in the Bahamas on May 16, 2002, describes its assets as "property in London, which is not currently rented." Assets of Star Precision Limited, registered in BVI May 21, 1997, were reported as "cash as the investment portfolio. We are also holding 1,165,238 shares in Orix Leasing Pakistan Limited."
Hussain Nawaz said his family won't hamper any investigation, and urged one of former president Pervez Musharraf as well. The government on April 15 announced an investigation by an inquiry commission of all Pakistanis named in the documents. Opposition politicians said a judge, not a retired judge, should investigate. Numerous judges recused themselves. On 28 July 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, disqualified Sharif from holding office.
The late Benazir Bhutto was also a Mossack Fonseca client. In 2001 the firm set up BVI company Petroline International Inc. for Bhutto, her nephew Hassan Ali Jaffery Bhutto, and her aide and head of security Rehman Malik, who later became a Senator and Interior Minister in the government of Yousaf Raza Gillani. Mossack Fonseca had deemed Bhutto's first company, the similarly named Petrofine FZC, politically sensitive and "declined to accept Mrs Bhutto as a client." A United Nations committee chaired by former US Federal Reserve head Paul Volcker had determined in a 2005 investigation into abuses of the oil-for-food program that Petrofine FZC paid US$2 million to the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein to obtain US $115–145 million in oil contracts.
In 2006, the Pakistani National Accountability Bureau (NAB) accused Bhutto, Malik and Ali Jaffery of owning Petrofine, established since 2000 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Bhutto and the Pakistan Peoples Party denied it. In April 2006 an NAB court froze assets owned in Pakistan and elsewhere by Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, saying that the assets, totaling $1.5 billion, were the result of corrupt practices, and that Swiss charges of criminal money laundering filed in 1997 were still in litigation.
Tareq Abbas, a son of Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was revealed to hold $1 million in shares of the Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC), an offshore company associated with the Palestinian Authority and partially owned by the Authority's Palestine Investment Fund.
Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, prime minister from 2007 to 2013, in 2002 acquired three shell companies incorporated in the Bahamas and another in the British Virgin Islands and through them moorage in Mallorca and a $300 million yacht named Al Mirqab. The Panama Papers indicate he owns or owned eight shell companies. Subsequent reporting by Forbes found that Al Thani bought $700 million in Deutsche Bank shares in 2014 through Paramount Services Holdings and in 2015 transferred roughly half the stock to Supreme Universal Holdings, owned by a relative who had left office as emir of Qatar, also in 2013.
King Salman is mentioned in the leaks in relation to two companies based in the British Virgin Islands—Verse Development Corporation, incorporated in 1999, and Inrow Corporation, incorporated in 2002. The companies took out mortgages totaling over US$34 million and purchased properties in central London. His role in the companies was not specified. BVI company Crassus Limited, incorporated in 2004, registered a yacht in London, named Erga after King Salman's palace in Riyadh. The vessel boasts a banquet hall and can comfortably sleep 30. King Salman is described in the documents as its "principal user".
The Ministry of Finance and Monetary Authority of Singapore said in a statement that "Singapore takes a serious view on tax evasion and will not tolerate its business and financial centre being used to facilitate tax related crimes. If there is evidence of wrongdoing by any individual or entity in Singapore, we will not hesitate to take firm action."
Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said his panel will investigate Sri Lankan names that come up in the Panama Papers, as well as the 46 who appear in the 2013 Offshore Leaks, according to the Daily Mail, since earlier leadership apparently did not do so. The country has many large outstanding foreign loans taken out under the administration of former president Mahinda Rajapakse, and the current government recently had to obtain a US$1.5 billion IMF bailout. Rajapakse has denied diverting funds. The current government came to power in January 2016 on an anti-corruption platform.
Rami Makhlouf, a maternal cousin of Bashar Al-Assad, was worth an estimated $5 billion before the Syrian Civil War, and had control of 60% of the economy. He was subject to sanctions by the United States and the European Union, and controlled Syria's oil and telecommunications business. The US Treasury charged that Pangates, a company registered to him, supplied the Assad government with a thousand tonnes of aviation fuel. However, the Makhloufs were able to continue to operate via Panama shell companies, registered in the British Virgin Islands, and so not subject to US law – however, on 9 May 2011, the EU issued its own sanctions, and these were extended by an order in council to the British Virgin Islands in July 2011. Mossack Fonseca decided 6 September to resign from Makhlouf's companies. By then, Makhlouf had already cut ties with his bank. HSBC told the law firm that the Swiss authorities had frozen Makhlouf's accounts, and that "they have had no contact with the beneficial owner of this company since the last 3 months".
The Bangkok Post reported that the "Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) is seeking information from its foreign counterparts regarding twenty-one Thai nationals reportedly included in a list of people worldwide using a Panama-based law firm apparently specializing in money laundering and tax evasion." It is not clear why AMLO is investigating only twenty-one. The Panama Papers include at least 780 names of individuals based in Thailand and another 50 companies based in Thailand. Some are foreigners or foreign-owned companies, but 634 individual addresses in Thailand appear in the documents that have surfaced to date, including the CEOs of giant companies Bangkok Land and Phatra Finance.
Investigations by ICIJ's sole East Asian partner CommonWealth Magazine in Taiwan found that at least 2,725 offshore companies had registered addresses in Taiwan. Ninety Taiwanese, including the singer and actor Nicky Wu, were included in the papers. According to a report released by CommonWealth Magazine, Wu used the firm Horizon Sky Technology, Ltd. to co-operate with Hong Kong-based Sun Entertainment Culture Limited (zh).
The publisher concludes that: "Taiwanese companies and individuals are believed to be extensively using offshore shelters to avoid or evade taxes ... after scouring the Panama Papers documents that Mossack Fonseca has not been one of their main conduits. This time, it appears that big Taiwanese banks, law firms and accounting firms did not often use the services of Mossack Fonseca, which does not have a presence in Taiwan. The forty-six Taiwanese brokers that did work with Mossack Fonseca were relatively small-scale consulting firms operating in Greater China. Most of the Taiwanese entities that set up shell companies through the Panamanian law firm were small, unlisted companies or individuals."
United Arab EmiratesEdit
ICIJ, The Guardian and The Independent have reported that UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan owns London real estate worth more than £1.2 billion through a structure of some thirty shell companies Mossack Fonseca set up for him in the British Virgin Islands and administer for him, using them to manage and control the luxury properties in London. By December 2015, Mossack Fonseca held nearly all of the shares in those companies in trust structures on his behalf, with the President and his wife, son and daughter the trust beneficiaries.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has denied any involvement in the affair, saying he had "entirely and completely been transparent about mine and my family's finances. That is something I learned early on that Canadians expect from their leaders." Canada Revenue Agency said in a statement that its current tax evasion audits include "some Canadian clients associated with law firm Mossack Fonseca," and added that it would "communicate" with its treaty partners to obtain any further information that may not currently be in its possession." The CRA has tax treaties with 92 different countries and 22 Tax Information Exchange Agreements.
The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) denied any wrongdoing associated with the 370+ clients it had referred to Mossack Fonseca over the years."We have an extensive due diligence process... RBC works within the legal and regulatory framework of every country in which we operate," said a bank spokesman. CEO David McKay said the bank will review the four decades of documentation for any problems. CEO Bill Downe of the Bank of Montreal said "Canadian banks have 'dramatically' beefed up anti-money laundering control over the last seven to 10 years," and added that any link between Canadian businesses and the Panama Papers companies would have originated a long time ago, before Canadian banks took action to stop money laundering.
Some individuals did surface in the leaked documents, according to ICIJ partner in the investigation Toronto Star.
- John Mark Wright, a mutual fund broker, had three shell companies in the British Virgin Islands for handling profits from a mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Eric Van Nguyen, a Montreal resident with registered companies in Samoa and another in the British Virgin Islands. He also faces fraud charges in the New York state in a penny stock scheme.
- Brian Shamess, a sports physician from Sault Ste Marie, used a Mossack Fonseca company to buy a condo on Panama Bay in 2011.
- Eric Marc Levine operates fitness clubs in Asia and has registered at least 15 companies in the British Virgin Islands through Mossack Fonseca. The Thai Anti-Money Laundering Office froze some of his business assets following fraud allegations; Levine responded with a defamation suit.
- Former Newfoundland Cabinet minister Chuck Furey incorporated in Panama to buy a condo in 2008. He said no longer has overseas holdings.
- Mixed martial arts trainer Dave Feser of Vancouver set up a business in British Anguilla with an office in Switzerland. "There's nothing even associated with this company," Feser told the Star.
Canadians for Tax Fairness had calculated that legal tax avoidance by corporations alone cost the Canadian treasury almost $8 billion Canadian a year. When it calculated the 2015 numbers, they found that corporations and individuals combined sent CAN$40 billion of declared assets to tax havens, and the ten most popular alone now held $270 billion Canadian in assets.
The administration of President Luis Guillermo Solís suggested that some of the activity unveiled by the leaked documents suggests attempts to evade taxes. His administration's effort to implement tax increases and reforms has met strong resistance from opposition and business figures.
Leaked documents suggest that Mossack Fonseca helped tuna export company Borda Azul set up a shell company in the British Virgin Islands in order to avoid Costa Rican taxes. The firm, now out of business, was headed by Hermes Navarro, president of the Costa Rican Football Federation from 1999 to 2006. In the late 1990s the Finance Ministry and Prosecutor's Office investigated Borda Azul and other export companies for allegedly misusing tax credit certificates; in 1997 dozens of companies had been accused of using the certificates for fraud and to launder drug profits.
According to ICIJ investigative partners DataBaseAR and Seminario Universidad, Mossack Fonseca helped Borda Azul fabricate invoices to allow it to report both inflated costs—to reduce its taxes—and inflated exports, to allow it to continue to qualify for the tax credit certificates. In a letter dated October 19, 1998, a Mossack Fonseca lawyer explained the investigation to the Panama City office and concluded:
In the worst of circumstances, being very fatalistic, the Costa Rican government could, after years of investigation, suspend the transfer of CATs to Borda Azul for irregularities but never send anyone to jail.— a Mossack Fonseca lawyer
More than thirty Costa Rican law firms are mentioned in the Panama Papers as referring clients to Mossack Fonseca, resulting in the creation of more than 360 shell companies. in particular Gonzalo Fajardo & Asociados, founded by former Finance Ministry official and later Economy Minister Gonzalo Fajardo Salas, and over nearly two decades helped Costa Rican companies set up 82 offshore corporations in tax havens, according to DataBaseAR.
Finance Vice Minister Fernando Rodríguez said Costa Rica will push to sign a Tax Information Exchange Agreement with Panama. Legislators from several parties are trying to line up political consensus to seek approval of the administration's tax fraud bill and to form a legislative commission to investigate those named in the Panama Papers, according to Emilia Molina Cruz of the Citizens' Action Party. While opposition parties have maintained that the country's financial problems stem from excess spending, according to the Finance Department, the sums Costa Rica loses to tax evasion equal about 8% of the country's gross domestic product, while its deficits have run at about 6%.
Aristóteles Núñez, who is in charge of the government's tax administration, Servicio de Administración Tributaria, said that people involved in the Panama Papers case can still make tax declarations and pay taxes on their investments. Being Mexican and having foreign investments or bank accounts is not a crime, but having income and not declaring it is illegal. If investments are categorized as tax evasion, fines of up to 100% of the omitted tax payment can result, as well as three months to nine years imprisonment.
- Mexican actress Edith González is linked to the scandal through her husband Lorenzo Lazo Margáin.
- Ricardo Salinas Pliego, president of Grupo Salinas, which includes Azteca, Banco Azteca and Azteca Foundation among others, used an offshore company set up in the Virgin Islands to purchase a yacht, Azteca II, flagged in the Cayman Islands. Felicitas Holdings Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands, spent £261 million in 2014 on art by Francisco de Goya and also bought works by Mexican painter Manuel Serrano; the press director of Grupo Salinas told Forbes that all of Pliego's transactions complied with the law.
- Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, a close friend of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, enlisted Mossack Fonseca to create trusts for accounts worth US$100 million after he was investigated for allegedly giving special favours to the Mexican president and his wife, according to an analysis by ICIJ, who said that the documents showed "a complex offshore network" of nine companies in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Described as Peña Nieto's "favorite contractor", Hinojosa's companies have won more than eighty government contracts and received at least US$2.8 billion in state money, The New York Times reported last year.
According to Forbes, "Hinojosa and other prominent Mexicans, mostly businessmen with close ties to the government, including at least one member of the Forbes billionaires list, were the subject of extensive articles published online by ICIJ investigation partners Proceso and Aristegui Noticias Sunday." Proceso also said that the Mexicans mentioned in the leaked documents included individuals linked to drug cartels.
Trinidad & TobagoEdit
Ken Emrith, a member of the opposition United National Congress (UNC), is linked to a bribery scandal in Brazil through Panamanian shell companies used to transfer millions of US dollars to offshore bank accounts. The Brazilian construction company Grupo OAS was awarded a contract in 2011 through the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO) by the People's Partnership administration to build a highway in Trinidad for TT$5.2 billion.[note 2] The highway is 49% complete, but it is now estimated that the highway will cost TT$8 billion when done. Investigators have found that Emirth's companies received $6 million from NIDCO and that Emirth was also a director of Pembury Consultants (Trinidad and Tobago) Limited, which OAS hired on the highway project as a consultant at $44,800 a month. Through May 2013 OAS paid Pembury at least TT$896,000; totals beyond that date are not currently available.
Emrith, described as a low-level UNC party official, had a second Mossack Fonseca company, Pendrey Associates. Speaking in Parliament, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said the leaked documents tied this offshore company to key players in the Petrobras scandal in Brazil, including the convicted Joao Procopio, and Jose Luiz Pires of Queluz, who had dealings with Swiss PKB Privatbank AG. Pires is under investigation, he said.
According to ICIJ investigative partner Trinidad Express, Emrith was a close associate of Jack Warner and also owns half the shares in Proteus Holding SA, an investment he refuses to discuss because he says he has a responsibility of confidentiality to fellow shareholders. The Express also says that OAS used a Namibian port development project as camouflage for a $1 million payment from Procopio shell company Santa Tereza Services Ltd to Emirth.
President Barack Obama was critical of Caribbean tax havens in his 2008 election campaign. In 2010, the United States implemented the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act; the law required financial firms around the world to report accounts held by US citizens to the Internal Revenue Service.
The US on the other hand refused to sign on to the Common Reporting Standard set up by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, alongside Vanuatu and Bahrain. This means the US receives tax and asset information for American assets and income abroad, but does not share information about what happens in the United States with other countries, which in other words means that the United States has become attractive as a tax haven.
At least 2,400 US-based clients were found in the papers and many of their transactions were legal, however Mossack Fonseca offered advice to many of its US clients on how to evade US tax and financial disclosure laws.
Panama Free Trade AgreementEdit
The Panama Free Trade Agreement, supported by Obama and Clinton, has been accused of enabling the practices detailed within the Panama Papers through regulatory oversight. However, an Obama administration official said the argument has "zero merit". John Cassidy of The New Yorker, said the Panama Free Trade Agreement actually forced Panama to release information to the American regulatory authorities on "the ownership of companies, partnerships, trusts, foundations, and other persons".
Citing leaked diplomatic cables, Fortune writer Chris Matthews speculated that Obama and Clinton may have supported the agreement, after opposing it while campaigning for office, because it was a quid pro quo for Panamanian support of US efforts against drug trafficking. In any event, he notes, while it is true that the agreement abolished limits on fund transfers between the US and Panama, the Obama administration insisted that the two countries first sign a Tax Information and Exchange Agreement as well, which facilitated the exchange of tax information between the countries.
After the leakEdit
President Barack Obama addressed the overseas shell companies listed by the leak in a press conference: "It's not that they're breaking the laws," he said, "it's that the laws are so poorly designed that they allow people, if they've got enough lawyers and enough accountants, to wiggle out of responsibilities that ordinary citizens are having to abide by." Although no leader in the US was mentioned in the Panama Papers, Obama said that "Frankly, folks in America are taking advantage of the same stuff".
Senators Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren have requested that the Treasury Department investigate any US-linked companies that appeared in the leaks, in addition to the Justice Department, given its role in the financial markets.
Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton condemned "outrageous tax havens and loopholes ... in Panama and elsewhere" at a Pennsylvania AFL–CIO event. Clinton added that "some of this behavior is clearly against the law, and everyone who violates the law anywhere should be held accountable", but it was "scandalous how much is actually legal". Clinton promised that "We are going after all these scams and make sure everyone pays their fair share here in America."
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara has opened a criminal investigation on matters related to the Panama Papers and sent a letter April 3 to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) saying his office "would greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak as soon as possible." The ICIJ received many such requests from many countries and ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle has said its policy is not to turn over any materials.
New York's Department of Financial Services has asked 13 foreign banks, including Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse Group AG, Commerzbank AG, ABN Amro Group NV and Societe Generale SA, for information about their dealings with Mossack Fonseca. The banks are not accused of wrongdoing but must provide telephone logs and records of other transactions between their New York branches and the law firm.
McClatchy Newspapers initially found four Americans with offshore shell companies named in the documents. All had previously been either accused or convicted of financial crimes such as fraud or tax evasion. Three reasons have been suggested to explain the paucity of Americans in the leak:
- Shell companies can be created in the United States.
- Major international banks based in America tend to have offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands instead.
- US laws like the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) of 2010 have meant that the "tax evasion game [was] principally over for American taxpayers."
Asked about the paucity of American individuals in the documents, digital editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung, Stefan Plöchinger, said via Twitter: "Just wait for what is coming next." Plöchinger later clarified that he was just advocating not jumping to conclusions. Copies of at least 200 American passports – indicating that their owners applied for banking services – have been discovered in the Papers, but no US politicians have yet been named in the leak. The names of a few Americans are however mentioned:
- Puerto Rican recording artist Ramón Luis Ayala, better known as Daddy Yankee, appears in the leaked documents.
- CEO and then Chairman of Citibank (1998–2006) Sanford I. Weill appears in the documents as sole shareholder of April Fool, a company based in the British Virgin Islands that managed a yacht of the same name from 2001–2005. Weill's second company, Brightao, includes Chinese and American investors and holds share in a Chinese insurance and risk-management firm, Mingya Insurance Brokers.
- Jerry Slusser, a fundraiser for Republican Mitt Romney, initially said he did not recall opening an offshore company, but then called his accountant and said it was for an investment in Hong Kong that eventually showed a loss.
- Numerous donors to former US President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as to the Clinton Foundation and its associated charities.
- Thousands of mentions of Donald Trump, none of which appear to refer to the person. Several "Trump" companies mentioned in the Panama Papers have completely different principals, such as "a young woman whose LinkedIn profile describes her as merchandising supervisor at a small clothing retailer" in Palembang, Indonesia. The "Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower Panama" mentioned in the papers "is not owned, developed or sold by Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization or any of their principals or affiliates," according to the resort website.
Argentine president Mauricio Macri is listed as head of a trading company based in the Bahamas that he did not disclose during his tenure as Mayor of Buenos Aires; it is not clear whether disclosure of non-equity directorships was then required under Argentine law.
On April 7, 2016, federal prosecutor Federico Delgado began a formal investigation into Macri's involvement with Fleg Trading Ltd., the company registered in Panama for which President Macri was listed as director. Judge Sebastián Casanello was asked to start the file on the inquiry. The initial petition was made by Neuquén representative Darío Martínez. Martínez claims Macri could be guilty of perjury due to omissions in his sworn statement. Martínez also referenced another offshore company, Kagemusha SA (named after Akira Kurosawa's 1980 film), which was established in 1981 and to which President Macri also had connections. An investigation by news outlets El Destape and InfoEconomico at the end of April found however that Macri had been involved in at least eight other holding companies, at least seven founded and run by his friends and relatives through Mossack Fonseca. Most are active; at least one is only a year old.
Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de KirchnerEdit
Daniel Muñoz, the private secretary and confidant of former Argentinian president Néstor Kirchner later also served for two years as an aide to Néstor Kirchner’s wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was president of Argentina from 2007 to 2015. Muñoz and his wife were linked to Gold Black Limited, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2010 to invest in U.S. real estate. The origin of the company's funds was listed as “personal savings.” From 2010 to the beginning of 2015, the company's ownership was through bearer shares, a financial instrument that can be used to hide an owner's identity. One of the directors, Sergio Tadisco, told ICIJ partner Canal Trece that he was just a figurehead who said he agreed to his name being used in 2011 because of his friendship with Muñoz and his wife. In January 2015, Muñoz and his wife became named shareholders, owning 50 percent each. By that time, Mossack Fonseca had become the registered agent of Gold Black. However, only three weeks later, its compliance department proposed resigning because Muñoz was identified in connection with the governments of the Kirchners. The resignation became effective in June 2015.
In 2009, Muñoz was investigated for illicit enrichment, a charge that was later dropped. In 2013, Argentinian media reported that Muñoz had helped transfer “bags of money” belonging to President Néstor Kirchner from Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, to Santa Cruz, the Kirchner’s home state. Charges in relation to the matter were dismissed in July 2015 for lack of evidence. On May 25, 2016 he died from a cáncer that he had for the last four years.
The family of Argentine Barcelona football player Lionel Messi said they would file a complaint after reports said Mossack Fonseca set a company up for him in 2012 named Mega Star Enterprises Inc. The family denied Messi had been involved and called the accusations slanderous. They said that the company referred to in the Panama Papers was inactive and that Messi had declared all income from image rights before and after proceedings with the Argentine Tax Agency. Messi alongside his father Jorge stood trial on three counts of tax evasion in May 2016. Spanish prosecutors say he tried to evade €4.1m in taxes on income from his image rights by assigning them to front companies in Belize and Uruguay. On 6 July 2016, Messi and his father were both found guilty of tax fraud and were handed suspended 21-month prison sentences, and respectively ordered to pay €1.7 million and €1.4 million in fines.
Five billionaires from Brazil, the sons of two Brazilian billionaires, and four former billionaire Brazilian families appear in the Panama Papers leak, according to Forbes. The Brazilian news website UOL has access to the leaked documents and has published an article and a list. Like many Panama Paper reports, their story cautions that some of the people mentioned in the documents may be doing nothing wrong; "In general there is nothing illegal per se in having an offshore company and in fact it is very common for an international business to set one up for transactions and joint ventures when they’re doing business all over the world," said Brazil-based Marcello Hallake, a Brazil-based partner of the law firm Jones Day.
However, six out of ten members of Congress now face one criminal investigation or another. High-profile construction executives and a senator are among the 84 people arrested in the Petrobras scandal, a number that reflects the job protections in the 1988 Constitution for judges and prosecutors.
Three men (Marcel Herrmann Telles, Carlos Alberto Sicupira and Jorge Felipe Lemann, son of their long-time business partner Jorge Paulo Lemann, Brazil's richest man and a controlling shareholder of Anheuser-Busch InBev) set up three offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas tied to private equity firm 3G and to beer firm Ambev, a unit of Anheuser-Busch Inbev, according to UOL. Two of the companies are no longer active and the men are no longer tied with the third. They told UOL the companies had been publicly disclosed and registered. Documents described Lemann as an advisor to Brazilian firm Sao Carlos. His father and father's business partners own a controlling stake.
Police raided the São Paulo offices of Mossack Fonseca in January 2016, seeking records about offshore companies the firm opened for two former executives of Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras) who were convicted in 2015 of corruption and money laundering. Police say the companies were used to hide illegally diverted funds.
Operation Car WashEdit
In January 2016, even before the Panama Papers were published, the Brazilian Federal Police, as part of a corruption investigation known as Operation Car Wash, had already accused Mossack Fonseca's law firm of helping suspects create offshore entities to hide corrupt money. They alleged that the firm used a real estate company to help hide criminal proceeds from the scheme involving Petrobras.
The leak complicated an already volatile political situation in Brazil, where a tanking economy had led to calls for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff amid many revelations of political corruption. As impeachment proceedings began, it became clear that the next two people in the order of succession have been implicated in the Petrobras scandal. According to O Estado de São Paulo, a company belonging to Eduardo Cunha, speaker of the lower house of the legislature and a leader of the impeachment drive, has surfaced in the Panama Papers. Rousseff herself is not mentioned in the papers.
Politicians from seven different political parties in Brazil were named as clients of Mossack Fonseca. Leaked files mention politicians from Brazil's largest party, the PMDB, which broke away from President Dilma Rousseff's coalition in 2016. Political figures from the PSDB, the most prominent opposition party in the country, were also mentioned in the leaks, as well as others from the PDT, PP, PSB, PSD and the PTB parties. No politicians from Rousseff's party were mentioned in the leaks.
A group of Dutch journalists from the daily newspaper Trouw found evidence in the Panama Papers showing that TV Globo is cited "many times" in a money laundering investigation of the De Nederlandsche Bank which revealed that for years the media outlet conducted "irregular financial transactions" through tax havens in order to pay for broadcast rights for the Copa Libertadores.
The National Directorate of Taxes and Customs launched an investigation into all 850 clients of Mossack Fonseca Colombia, a subsidiary of Mossack Fonseca that was established in 2009. In 2014, Colombia had placed Panama onto its blacklist of tax havens. The leaked documents also led Panama to move forward with the ongoing negotiations with Colombia on tax information-sharing.
Ecuadorian journalists have published the names of three current government officials, and the Panama Papers also reveal that in 2012 the Panamanian government believed that a Mossack Fonseca company the anti-corruption prosecutor was investigating for embezzlement, Orlion S.A., had been sold to president Rafael Correa Delgado and his brother Fabricio Correa in 2006. Mossack Fonseca had been asked for shareholder information but did not have it, and so contacted Legalsa & Asociados, a law firm in Guayaquil, Ecuador which had set up the offshore for a client. Shortly afterwards the firm dropped the offshore due to lack of information.
Correa's cousin, Pedro Delgado Campana, convicted in absentia in Ecuador for embezzlement, bought a home in North Miami Beach through a Mossack Fonseca company with his wife, who was Consul of Ecuador in Miami at the time.
- Grupo Ortega Trujillo offshore companies in Panama
- a Chinese company, with government contracts and ties to companies that operate in tax havens
He and the rest of the six journalists from Ecuador report they have received summonses and subpoenas from little-known anticorruption agency Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control (CPCCS), demanding all documents. A scheduled hearing was postponed due to the earthquake April 16. The National Assembly's Commission of Justice has also opened an investigation.
Mónica Almeida of El Universo said that the government has taken coverage of the Panama Papers as an attack on itself. Stories in the Ecuadorian media have mentioned attorney general Galo Chiriboga; Pedro Delgado Campaña, the former president of the Central Bank of Ecuador and Correa' cousin; and Javier Molina, a former adviser of the Ministry of Intelligence and one of the founders of Mossack Fonseca in Quito.
Two supporters of leading candidate Keiko Fujimori have undeclared interests on Mossack Fonseca companies, according to ICIJ partner OjoPúblico, which said as well that three renowned chefs and Peru's largest timber company were also implicated.
Mario Vargas Llosa, who also has Spanish nationality, and his wife bought an offshore company through the buffer Mossack Fonseca. The couple appears linked to this from September 1, 2010, to October 6 of that year, shortly after Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature. After appearing linked, they denied using any tax havens.
Five people were arrested on April 22, on suspicion of laundering funds for a Mexican drug cartel. A Uruguayan investigation had been underway, but authorities decided to move because of reports in an ICIJ partner, the weekly Búsqueda, that Gerardo González Valencia had used Mossack Fonseca companies to buy real estate in Uruguay. The head of the Los Cuinos cartel, his brother Abigael González Valencia, is now imprisoned in Mexico and the United States has designated him a drug kingpin, as well as his brother-in-law Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, who leads the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
Josmel Velásquez, brother of a security official under the late Hugo Chávez, was arrested April 15 trying to catch a flight out of the country due to an offshore company revealed by the Panama Papers. His mother Amelis Figueroa was also arrested, but allowed to return home due to her health. Venezuelan news site Armando.info reported that Josmel's brother Adrian, a former aide to late President Hugo Chávez, had opened a shell company though Mossack Fonseca in the Republic of the Seychelles with a $50,000 deposit. Their report was based on the documents leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Velásquez was Indicted April 20.
Franklin Duran, notorious in Venezuela and Argentina for his part in el maletinazo, or "suitcase scandal" involving an alleged illicit contribution from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to Christina Fernandez de Kirchner of $800,000 from the Venezuelan state-run oil company, PDVSA, was able to open a shell company from a jail cell in the United States, where he was serving a sentence for operating as an unregistered foreign agent.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, head of the African Union's panel on illicit financial flows, on April 9 called the leak "most welcome" and called on African nations to investigate the citizens of their nations who appear in the papers. His panel's 2015 report found that Africa loses $50 billion a year due to tax evasion and other illicit practices and its 50-year losses top a trillion dollars. Furthermore, he said, the Seychelles, an African nation, is the fourth most mentioned tax haven in the documents.
Minister of Industry and Mines Abdeslam Bouchouareb has been sole owner of a Panamanian-registered offshore company known as Royal Arrival Corp since 2015. The company, active in Turkey, Great Britain and Algeria, is managed through Compagnie d'Etude et de Conseil (CEC), based in Luxembourg, and has an account in the Swiss NBAD Private Bank. CEC confirmed the ownership of Royal Arrival and said it managed the minister's inherited assets with transparency.
Algeria estimates it has lost 16 billion dollars offshore between 2004 and 2014, a cause for concern given the drop in the price of oil, which accounts for 95% of Algeria's external revenue.
The Panama Papers exposed a link between an American oil company's oil concessions and several powerful politicians in Angola. According to the leaked documents approximately fifteen shell companies funneled money through UBS bank accounts to elites in Portugal with direct ties to Helder Bataglia dos Santos of Escom, which describes itself as one of the largest investors in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The account of one company, Markwell Inc, received and sent on over $12 million in 2008 and 2009.
Petroleum Minister José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos had power of attorney for an offshore company in 2002, when he became petroleum minister after previously being employed for a number of years as an executive at Sonangol, according to the leaked documents. He denies wrongdoing. ICIJ partner Le Monde says it has seen documents that show he was the proxyholder for Medea Investments Limited, founded in Niue in 2001, and moved to Samoa five years later. The company, which issued only bearer bonds, had a capitalization of $1 million, and closed in 2009. He has never previously been accused of corruption.
Angola's $5 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA), promotes itself as a vehicle of development and prosperity for Angola. The FSDEA is headed by José Filomeno de Sousa "Zenu" dos Santos, the son of President José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979. Funded by the state-owned petroleum company Sonangol, the FSDEA has critics who say that its record-keeping is murky and that it seems to engage in nepotism and cronyism.
Ian Kirby, head of the Court of Appeal, owns seven holding companies in the British Virgin Islands. He has said they were intended for investment, and lost money.
Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso is the son of Denis Sassou Nguesso, in power for 32 years and re-elected in March in a disputed election. Daniel is a representative for Oyo, a member of the ruling Parti congolais du travail or Congolese Party of Labour. He is also the assistant director-general of the Société nationale des pétroles du Congo (SNPC), and general manager of the national refinery, Coraf. According to leaked documents he had Mossack Fonseca establish a shell company in the British Virgin Islands for him named Phoenix Best Finance Ltd.
According to Swiss non-profit Berne Declaration, Philia has an exclusive no-bid contract for Congolese oil exports from the Coraf refinery, and for the last three years the country has not received any payment at all for oil shipped to the refinery.
Bruno Itoua was the president's advisor on oil and director-general of the SNPC until 2005. A US federal court found that he diverted funds to fictitious companies, but he nonetheless became minister of energy. Panama Papers documents seen by Le Monde reveal he has also held the power of attorney since 2004 for Denvest Capital Strategies and Grafin Associated SA, registered by Mossack Fonseca in Panama and the British Virgin Islands. Itoua is currently minister for scientific research.
Democratic Republic of CongoEdit
From 1999 to 2002, the Kabila regime "transferred ownership of at least $5 billion of assets from the state-mining sector to private companies under its control... with no compensation or benefit for the State treasury," a United Nations investigation found.
The US Dodd-Frank Act was supposed to help bring about the end of conflict diamonds and minerals in the US. The idea was that public opinion would force divestment over time. Section 1502 does not require divestment, but does mandate disclosure. But instead the disclosure requirement has simply meant new business opportunities for money launderers.
As recently as 2014 the UN found that 70% of DRC gold was sold in Dubai without any problem, while gold continued to provide important funding for both the army and armed rebel groups.
Dan Gertler and Beny SteinmetzEdit
In March 2005, Dan Gertler International formed a new company, Global Enterprises Corporate (GEC), with Global Resources, owned by Beny Steinmetz. A former DRC mines minister, Simon Tuma-Waku, was "special adviser". The company formed a joint copper and cobalt mining venture with DRC agency La Générale Des Carriers et Des Mines (Gécamines), which held 25%, and GEC 75%, which they placed into an Isle of Man holding company, Nikanor plc. The IPO raised £400 million in London and the company eventually reached a market capitalization of $1.5 billion for an initial investment of $3 million.
- In January 2010 Gécamines revoked a joint venture contract for the Kingamyambo Musonoi tailings copper project with First Quantum Minerals, a Canadian company which had spent $750 million on a treatment plant at the site.
- A majority stake was then sold to Highwinds Group, which paid $60 million and turned out to be owned by Gertler.
- Gertler sold Camrose, another offshore company that owned Highwinds, to a Kazakhstan entity for $689 million.
- A lawsuit, First Quantum vs Highwinds and Others, subsequently recovered more than a billion dollars.
Steinmetz appears in 282 leaked documents; Gertler of Dan Gertler Inc, who had ties to Joseph Kabila and his closest aide, more than 200. The presidential decree that ratified the agreement was issued despite the recommendation against it by the anti-corruption Lutundula Commission.
Jaynet Désirée Kabila KyunguEdit
According to the Panama Papers, Kabila's twin sister owns part of an offshore company with interests in Congo that include a part of mobile-phone company Vodacom Congo. The government called a press conference to warn journalists against printing the names of any Congolese figures that might appear in the documents. Kabila's sister, Jaynet Désirée Kabila Kyungu and Feruzi Kalume Nyembwe, an advisor to their late father and former president Laurent-Désiré Kabila are both directors of Keratsu Holding Limited, a company registered in Niue through Mossack Fonseca a few months after the elder Kabila's assassination. Keratsu held 19.6% of the shares in Congolese Wireless Network, which held 49% of Vodacom Congo.
Lucien Ebata, a Kinshasa businessman, runs Orion Group SA, registered in the Seychelles in 2009 by Mossack Fonseca through the Luxembourg-based Figed, according to the Panama Papers. Ebata, who receives a salary of a million dollars, does a business volume of around a billion, and counts both Shell and the Société nationale des pétroles du Congo (SNPC) among his customers.
In theory American and European buyers of gold in Africa are required to review their supply chain and report any use of conflict resources, such as gold from eastern Congo. In practice the requirement is widely ignored, and an investigation by African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) found examples in the leaked Mossack Fonseca documents of anonymous shell companies doing the sourcing. For a start, most of the DRC gold winds up in Dubai by way of Uganda. Dubai's $75 billion gold industry is regulated with a very light hand by the quasi-private Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC).
Kalotti, which exports about 40% of Dubai's gold, bought about $5.2 billion in gold in 2012 with little to no paperwork, according to Ernst & Young partner Amjad Rihan. Rijan has said that both the DMCC and his employer squashed his concerns, and the DMCC changed its audit procedures to ensure a more favorable outcome in the future. ANCIR journalists obtained records showing that Kalotti has sold "scrap gold" to other refiners including Valcambi. Leaked documents show PAMP Holding Mauritius signed an agreement with MKS Holding BV and two shell companies described as its beneficial owners: Panama-based Mountside Investment and Hong Kong-based Dynamic Bonus Limited. In 2010 MKS Holdings owned 72% of a joint venture between MMTC Ltd., owned by the State of India, and Switzerland's PAMP. This joint venture does supply big multinationals like Apple.
Alaa Mubarak, son of former president Hosni Mubarak, was cited as owning, through holding companies, real estate properties in London. The assets of his Virgin Islands-registered firm Pan World Investments were frozen in response to a European Union order when his father stepped down in 2011 during the Arab Spring. Mossack Fonseca was fined $37,500 in 2013 for lack of due diligence. Alaa and his brother were convicted last year of embezzling state funds and still face trial for insider trading.
Egyptian businessmen Mohamed Abu El-Enein, Ahmed Bahgat, Ashraf Marwan, Ibrahim Kamal, Mohamed Nosseir, Mohamed Mansour, Raouf Ghabbour, and Mohamed Al-Maghraby are all named in the leaked documents, as well as the Orascom Development Holding company, headed by Samih Sawiris, and also the Bank of Alexandria, Banque Misr, and Banque du Caire.
Former Sudanese President Ahmed al-Mirghani was a client of Mossack Fonseca also. Al-Mirghani lived in Egypt after the 1989 coup that ended his presidency and was active in the Democratic Unionist Party. Orange Star Corporation bought a long-term lease in a tony London neighborhood near Hyde Park for $600,000 the same year al-Mirghani created it, and at the time of his death held assets worth $2.72 million.
Every Ramadan he fed 500 people; he financed 20-odd pilgrimages to Mecca every year. Described as a billionaire, Seydou Kane holds diplomatic passports from Senegal, Gabon and Mali. The protocol officer of the Senegalese Embassy in Paris was waiting for him when his plane landed at Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle in November 2015. But Kane, a close associate of the Gabonese ruling family, was questioned and jailed in Nanterre for ten hours by anti-corruption agents in connection with an investigation opened in July 2007.
According to Senegalese daily Libération, the money-laundering unit Tracfin became interested in 2006 in a €300,000 payment from Groupe Marck, a French company specializing in military uniforms and anti-riot gear, to a Monaco-based entity called Citp. Citp was managed by Kane, a close friend of the president's chief of staff, Maixent Accrombessi, himself held in Paris and interrogated in August 2015. French officials wanted to ask Accrombessi about a contract between Marck and the Gabonese Ministry of the Interior for €7 million. The head of Marck, Philippe Belin, was also held and questioned. The investigation was assigned to Roger Le Loire, who also conducted the so-called "ill-gotten goods" investigation, which targeted a number of African leaders including the father and predecessor of Ali Bongo Ondimba, the current president of Gabon.
Mossack Fonseca opened two holding companies for Kane in 2013 and 2014: Maxi Gold International Limited and Smart Key LTD, which according to their paperwork traded in sundries on the one hand and gym equipment on the other.
John Addo Kufuor, son of John Agyekum Kufuor, had Mossack Fonseca manage his trust starting in 2001 when his father took office. The trust held $75,000 in a bank account in Panama; his mother was also a beneficiary. He was linked to two other offshore companies also registered during his father's term. They are now inactive.
Kojo Annan, son of former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, appears with Laolu Saraki, the son of the late Nigerian senator Abubakar Olusola Saraki, as shareholders in Blue Diamond Holding Management Corp, registered by Mossack Fonseca in the British Virgin Islands in 2002. The two were directors of Sutton Energy Ltd, also registered in the British Virgin Islands in 2002, then transferred to Samoa. In 2015, Annan used another shell company first registered in the British Virgin Islands, then transferred to Samoa, to purchase an apartment in London for $500,000.
In 2008–2009, the Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) and its owner Beny Steinmetz paid just $165 million for the mining rights to the northern portion of Simandou mine, located in the Nzérékoré region of Guinea's interior. Soon after, he sold 51% of the rights to Vale for $2.5 billion. Rio Tinto, which had previously held the concession, had invested $450 million into infrastructure at the site. Global Witness says BSGR in fact paid nothing for the rights, and the $165 million represents BSGR's self-reported investment in improvements at the site. It adds that either way BSGR's profit exceeded the national budget of Guinea.
US authorities say that Steinmetz paid Mamadie Touré $5.3 million for her help in obtaining the concession from her husband Lansana Conté, president of Guinea, shortly before he died. According to Global Witness, an offshore company belonging to Touré, Matinda, received a payment of $2.4 million from a company named Pentler Holdings. Several more payments were promised as well as 5% of BSGR shares in Simandou. Pentler owned 17.65% of BSGR Guinea.
Guinean President Alpha Condé launched an investigation after he was elected in 2010. Separately, so did the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US justice department, suspecting violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In August 2014 Mossack Fonseca received a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) notice from the US government inquiring into ownership of Pentler and two other BSGR companies administered by Mossack Fonseca's Geneva office. However, the president of Pentler's financial management firm, Menachem Eitan, was a fugitive from the US SEC facing charges over a $55 million Ponzi scheme.
Guinea's Mines Minister Mohamed Lamine Fofana said in 2012 that BSGR "didn’t follow the law".
Jean-Claude N’Da Ametchi, an advisor to former president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to accept that he lost an election in 2010, is also mentioned in the leaked documents. The European Union sanctioned banker N'Da Ametchi in 2011 for helping to finance the Gbagbo regime. His offshore company, Cadley House Ltd, was registered in the Seychelles with bearer bonds and a bank account in Morocco. N'Da Ametchi sent email in 2011 to the Geneva office of Mossack Fonseca, naming the Geneva bank Pasche financial managers of the company. In September 2012 he acted as sole director to request they transfer its registration to Abidjan. Neither Mossack Fonseca nor the banks mentioned the European sanctions; these were eventually lifted in 2012. The company was apparently still active in 2015, according to documents seen by Le Monde. He is currently an advisor to former prime minister Charles Konan Banny, who lost the October 2015 presidential election.
Former Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal was a director or shareholder in four holding companies and was active in two after she took office. Her husband owns another seven. The companies were used for real estate transactions in Britain. Rawal and her husband were shareholders and directors of Highworth Management Services, where Ajay Shah, a former director of Trust Bank, was also a shareholder and director. The Central Bank of Kenya ordered Shah's assets auctioned to repay depositors after Trust Bank collapsed, but he went into hiding and the assets have not been recovered.
Mounir Majidi, personal secretary of King Mohammed VI was designated in March 2006 as the representative of SMCD Limited created in 2005 through Geneva financial advisor Dextima Conseils. According to the ICIJ, through SMCD Majidi bought the "Aquarius W", a 1930s-era luxury sailboat, which was then registered in Morocco as "El Boughaz", belonging to the king. SMCD, according to the ICIJ, also made a loan to a Luxembourg company, Logimed Investissements Co SARL, for which details are not available. Following this loan, SMCD was liquidated in 2013.
Diamond Ocean Enterprises, a Mossack Fonseca entity set up in 2005, reported its purpose as financial consulting to a Namibian diamond manufacturer and polisher. According to the law firm's records, Deutsche Investment Consultants (Asia) Limited, a Mossack Fonseca company set up in the British Virgin Islands for the now-imprisoned Mafioso Vito Palazzolo by Wolf-Peter Berthold, a German banker based in Hong Kong, is a director of the firm. Its shareholders include Peter von Palace Kolbatschenko, Palazzolo's son, Berthold, and Giovanni Agusta.
Also in 2005, Zacharias (Zacky) Nujoma, youngest son of Sam Nujoma, set up two holding companies, Avila Investments and Marbella Investments, and licensed them to buy and cut diamonds. Shortly afterwards 90% of the stock was transferred to Diamond Ocean. In 2006 Nujoma established Ancash Investments, which obtained seven exclusive uranium prospecting licenses. Palazzolo loaned the company US$10 million. Canadian mining company announced it would partner with Ancash in its uranium contracts and said it based its decision in part on Ancash's strong international support in Natural Earth International Ltd. of Hong Kong. Natural Earth is another Deutsche Investment company.
"Corrupt officials have stolen $150 billion from Nigeria in the last 10 years," said Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said April 7, 2016. He added that he planned to ask United States President Barack Obama for help.
Bukola and Toyin SarakiEdit
President of the Nigerian Senate Bukola Saraki was found, through the Panama Papers leak, to have ties to at least four offshore companies he failed to declare to the Code of Conduct Bureau as Nigerian law requires. His wife Toyin also had shell companies listed in her name in the Mossack Fonseca documents: Girol Properties Ltd, Sandon Development Limited and *Landfield International Developments Ltd. Saraki has said that the assets in these holding companies belong to his wife's family and therefore he was not required to report them. ANCIR dismisses this because:
- His close friend and aide is a shareholder in Sandon Development.
- He has previously described himself, both in correspondence and in legal documents, as the shareholder of the Belgravia property owned by Sandon Development.
- Toyin had her lawyers send a letter to ICIJ denying ownership of Girol Properties.
However, leaked documents do link her to the firm. But a handwritten note suggests Mossack Fonseca was aware that she was a nominee director.
Aliko Dangote, chief executive of the Dangote Group, is tied in the leaked documents to four offshore companies, and to as many as 13 if his family and business associates are included. Dangote, with an estimated $17 billion worth, is currently involved in the construction of a $14 billion oil refinery in Lagos.
Former Delta State governor James Ibori is also mentioned in the leak. Ibori pleaded guilty in London in 2012 to siphoning $75 million out of Nigeria while he was in office from 1999–2007. All charges against him in Nigeria had been dropped in Nigeria following an election. Ibori was sentenced to 13 years. Mossack Fonseca, the registered agent for his four offshore entities, received a request in 2008 for information about his accounts from British Crown Prosecutors. His family's Julex Foundation was the shareholder in Stanhope Investments, a company incorporated in 2003 on the island of Niue, to which he funneled millions of dollars so he could buy a private jet. The United Kingdom returned £6.8 million to Nigeria from funds it had seized from accounts determined to have belonged to Ibori.
The anti-corruption taskforce of the Olusegun Obasanjo government, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, questioned at the time whether the Yar’Adua administration has refrained or was loath to pursue members of the Nigerian elite suspected of corruption, including leading financiers of the ruling party, or those like Ibori who supported had their election.
Former Senate President David Marks was also listed as owner of eight shell companies in the leaked Panama Papers: Sikera Overseas S.A, Colsan Enterprises Limited, Goldwin Transworld Limited, Hartland Estates Limited, Marlin Holdings Limited, Medley Holdings Limited, Quetta Properties Limited and Centenary Holdings Limited.
A portion of the wealth owned by former Chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), Hakeem Belo-Osagie, is domiciled in trusts and shell companies in some notorious tax havens around the world.
The government of Rwanda uses an offshore company to lease a private jet for its senior politicians. Leaked documents show that Brigadier-General Emmanuel Ndahiro, using a London address, become a director of a British Virgin Islands company, Debden Investments Ltd. in 1998, owner of a jet aircraft. Ndahiro, a close advisor of president Paul Kagame, was then spokesman for Kagame's military. According to the Panama Papers the owner of the company was Hatari Sekoko, who ran a number of real estate and hotel ventures such as the Marriott in Kigali.
ICIJ partner Ouestaf.com was able to establish through the Panama Papers the existence of secret contracts between and DP World FZE (DP)and Mamadou Pouye, the bribery codefendant of Karim Wade, son of former prime minister Abdoulaye Wade. This information was not available at their trial; Ouestaf confirmed their financial ties to the corporation for the first time during the Panama Papers investigation. Wade was sentenced in 2015 to a 6-year prison term by the Cour de répression de l’enrichissement illicite (Crei), a specialized anti-corruption court. Wade was accused of illegally amassing assets of more than $240 million; and his childhood friend Pouye was sentenced to five years for allegedly helping him. Both denied wrongdoing and the United Nations and Amnesty International said their rights had been violated at trial. Ouestaf's investigation did not address the legality of their trial. It did conclude that they had succeeded in tracing a payment to Pouye's oversea shell company from a subsidiary of DP.
Wade remains a member of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) and is still the PDS candidate for the 2017 presidential election.
Mossack Fonseca documents show that Pouye owned three offshore companies, Seabury Inc, Regory Invest and Latvae Inc.
- Through Seabury, a consulting contract worth €7.2 million with DP World materialized.
- A second contract for 2013–2015 was to focus on DP's African holdings, and would have paid Wade and Puye $3 million at signing; however the pair were arrested.
Seabury seems to have been set up solely for doing business with DP World. It was started in 2008, a year after Senegal signed a contract with DP World for rights to the container terminal at the Autonomous Port of Dakar. In April 2009 Wade became minister of international cooperation, of territorial development, air transport and infrastructure, which he remained until his father's defeat by Macky Sall in the 2012 election. Regory Invest acted as a Seabury subcontractor, receiving €65,000 euros a month, according to the documents.
According to Ouestaf the documents make it clear that while Crei investigators were interested in the funds in Pouye's Monaco account, they did not know that their source was an offshore account he created himself. The two contracts prove that there was in fact a relationship between the defendants and DP World. Investigator Papa Alboury Ndao told the court in February[when?] that he had discovered two payments of $13 million each from a subsidiary of DP World FZE to a Singapore bank account belonging to Karim Wade. However the bank in Singapore refused to cooperate and Ndao was forced to drop that line of inquiry.
Mossack Fonseca opened several offshore companies for multinationals. For example: Anglogold, owner of Anglogold Investments Senegal Ltd et Anglogold Exploration Senegal Ltd (both based in the British Virgin Islands).
Senegalese architect Pierre Atepa Goudiaby, a special advisor to former president Abdoulaye Wade, is also mentioned in the leaked documents. The Swiss law firm Fidinam SA had Mossack Fonseca open the offshore Atepa Engineering Corp en 2006, the same year Goudiaby opened his Paris office on the Champs-Elysées.
The ICIJ investigation traces out many levels of offshore holdings in multiple countries related to the business dealings of Beny Steinmetz, with many serious findings such as a request that Mossack Fonseca backdate the revocation of a power of attorney. Mossack Fonseca records show that Sierra Leone diamond exporter Octea, based in the British Virgin Islands with the Steinmetz family as its beneficiaries, is wholly owned by Guernsey-based BSGR Resources, linked to a bribery scandal in Guinea. Foundations in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, among them Nysco and Balda, own BSGR. In 2007, one of Nysco's bank accounts contained $27.7 million.
Steinmetz, who has a personal fortune of $6 billion, supplies diamonds to Tiffany and DeBeers and is Sierra Leone's largest private investor. Yet, according to a detailed report in The Namibian, his Octea subsidiary owes, among other debts, property taxes of $700,000 to the city of Koidu. These unpaid taxes are discounted, according to mayor Saa Emerson Lamina, because Octea promised a 5% profit−sharing agreement, and payment 1% of its annual profit to a community development fund, but it did not do this either.
Octea's subsidiary, Koidu Holdings, obtained the mine for $28 million, which was supposed to be a deposit, in 2002. Fighting had stopped in Sierra Leone, and the mine had previously been held and worked by South African firm Branch Energy, in payment for the services of its parent company, Executive Outcomes, "effectively...a military battalion for hire," against rebel fighters in the area. Steinmetz has since put $300 million into the project.
According to reporting by the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR), the company produces 60–90% of Sierra Leone's diamond exports, and in some months between 2012 and 2015 exported more than US$330 million in rough diamonds. Octea owes US$150 million in unpaid loans. Although government records show taxes paid by other diamond companies, none are listed for Octea.
The National Mineral Agency (NMA) until 2005 valued diamonds for export using a price book based on 1996 figures. Companies also often seek to minimize the value of their diamond exports to reduce taxes and move profits abroad. Once transferred to a subsidiary elsewhere where their value is not taxed, the same diamonds are frequently worth more.
Diamonds from Koidu average $330 a carat, roughly 50% more than De Beers's Jwaneng mine in Botswana, the world's biggest. Tiffany has first pick of some of the best stones mined at Koidu and the remainder are sold to other trade buyers, according to Bloomberg.
Two men linked to Fidentia, a South African asset management company that looted 1.2 billion rand from pension funds meant to provide for 46,000 widows and orphans of mineworkers, had accounts with Mossack Fonseca, which was willing to help hide the money even after South Africa made their names public. The former chief executive of Fidentia, J. Arthur Brown, was sentenced in 2014 to concurrent 15-year sentences. The FBI arrested one man, Steven Goodwin, in Los Angeles in 2008. Sent back to South Africa, Goodwin was sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud and money laundering. The other, Graham Maddock, was also later jailed in South Africa for fraud.
Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma, has links in the documents to an offshore company with oil interests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has denied any wrongdoing. According to leaked documents President Zuma also has ties to an oil mining deal between a British Virgin Islands-based oil company, Caprikat Limited, and Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and helped Caprikat obtain oil fields in the DRC then sent his nephew to the DRC to run the firm.
Former President Ahmed al-Mirghani surfaced as a client of Mossack Fonseca. Al-Mirghani, who was president from 1986 to 1989, created Orange Star Corporation in the British Virgin Islands through the Panama firm in 1995, when he was living in Egypt after the coup that ended his presidency. He was active in the Democratic Unionist Party there. Orange Star Corporation bought a long-term lease in a tony London neighborhood near Hyde Park for $600,000 the same year al-Mirghani created it, and at the time of his death held assets worth $2.72 million.
The trial court prosecutor in Tunis ordered a judicial inquiry into the Panama Papers and Tunisian political figures suspected of hiring the firm. A judge from a Tunisian court specializing in financial crimes was assigned to the case. The Tunisian Assembly of the Representatives of the People established a parliamentary commission of inquiry as well
Newspaper Inkyfada had access to the documents and reported a dozen politicians, former government officials and lawyers had been implicated, as well as a leading media figure. Monday 4 April 2016 it reported that the former secretary-general of the Nidaa Tounes political party, Mohsen Marzouk, who was also the coordinator of the new political party, Machrouu Tounes, was on the point of creating his own account in December 2014, in the first presidential elections. Marzouk had written Mossack Fonseca about a company in the Virgin Islands, emphasizing a desire to hold funds and conduct business overseas. Marzouk denies this and has filed a defamation complaint.
Inkyfada was forced to briefly shut down its website following the report due to a cyberattack that attempted to insert names of politicians who had not been mentioned in the leaked documents.
Mossack Fonseca documents provide new insight and confirmation for a previously-litigated tax case where an offshore company transferred its registration to avoid paying capital gains tax in Uganda. The documents show that Heritage Oil and Gas Limited (HOGL) knew in advance of a capital gains tax that Uganda planned to enact. HOGL was then operating in Uganda and planned to sell half its Ugandan assets. It "urgently" moved its registration from the Bahamas to Mauritius to avoid the tax. Mauritius has a double taxation agreement with Uganda, meaning that HOGL would pay tax in only one of the two countries. But Mauritius does not have a capital gains tax, so by moving there Heritage reduced its capital gains tax to zero. Emails clearly show that this was the reason for the transfer, although company attorneys deny it.
In 2010, HOGL sold its 50% stake in Ugandan oil fields to Tullow Uganda for US$1.5 billion. The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) applied a US$404 million capital gains tax on the transaction and HOGL refused to pay. A four-year battle in various courts ensued. Ugandan officials, including President Yoweri Museveni and the then-URA Commissioner-General Allen Kagina demanded the payment from Tullow, threatening not to renew its exploration licenses, which were about to expire, unless it deducted the tax from its payment to Heritage and remitted it to the URA. Eventually Tullow made a down payment and deposited the rest in escrow, pending legal resolution of its appeal, which came in 2013. Tullow also successfully sued HOGL to recover taxes they had paid on its behalf.
Heritage Gas and Oil is a subsidiary of Heritage Oil, founded by Conservative Party donor Tony Buckingham, who has given the party more than £100,000. As of December 31, 2008, he still owned 33.1% of Heritage Oil.
Uganda's ratio of tax to gross domestic product, at less than 14%, is one of the lowest in East Africa.
An arms dealer and a mining tycoon with close links to President Robert Mugabe operated offshore companies despite US and European sanctions against them until 2013, more than four years after the sanctions were announced, according to the leaked documents.
According to the Panama Papers, Zimplats Holdings, a large platinum mining concern, set up a shell company to pay the salaries of its senior managers. Zimplats denies knowledge of the company, HR Consultancy. The company, which was still active in 2015, was unknown to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, which may indicate externalization of funds and tax evasion if, as it appears, the salaries were for citizens of Zimbabwe performing work in Zimbabwe.
On April 22, 2016, Australia said it would create a public register showing the beneficial, or actual, owners of shell companies, as part of an effort to stamp out tax avoidance by multinational corporations.
The Australian Taxation Office has announced that it is investigating 800 individual Australian taxpayers on the Mossack Fonseca list of clients and that some of the cases may be referred to the country's Serious Financial Crime Task Force. Eighty names match to an organized crime intelligence database.
Leaked documents examined by the ABC "pierced the veil of anonymous shell companies" and linked a Sydney businessman and a Brisbane geologist to mining deals in North Korea. "Rather than applying sanctions, the Australian Government and the ASX seem to have allowed a coach and horses to be ridden through them by the people involved in forming this relationship, corporate relationship with one of the primary arms manufacturers in North Korea," said Thomas Clark of the University of Technology Sydney.
David Sutton was director of AAT Corporation and EHG Corporation when they held mineral licenses in North Korea and did business with Korean Natural Resources Development and Investment Corporation, which is under United Nations sanctions, and North Korea's "primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, responsible for approximately half of the arms exported by North Korea." The geologist, Louis Schurmann, said British billionaire Kevin Leech was key to putting the deal together. Leaked documents also reveal the involvement of another Briton, Gibraltar-based John Lister. According to ABC, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was aware of these mining deals, which had also been brought up in the Australian Senate, but nobody ever referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police.
On May 12, 2016, the names of incumbent Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, and former Premier of New South Wales Neville Wran, were both found in the Panama Papers, due to the pair's former directorship of the Mossack Fonseca-incorporated company Star Technology Systems Limited. Turnbull and Wran resigned from these positions in 1995, and the Prime Minister has denied any impropriety, stating "had [Star Technology] made any profits—which it did not regrettably—it certainly would have paid tax in Australia."
Media initially reported that the Panama Papers lists 500 entities created under the jurisdiction of the Cook Islands, population 10,000, almost as many as Singapore, whose population is 5.7 million. After the Winebox affair, the Cook Islands gave New Zealand jurisdiction over tax matters.
New Zealand's Inland Revenue Department said that they were working to obtain details of people who have tax residence in the country who may have been involved in arrangements facilitated by Mossack Fonseca. Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, told Radio New Zealand on April 8, 2016 that New Zealand is a well-known tax haven and a "nice front for criminals". New Zealand provides overseas investors with foreign trusts and look-through companies. New Zealand government policy is to not request disclosure of the identity of either the settlor or the beneficiaries of the trust, and thus the ownership remains secret, and as a consequence, thus hiding the assets from the trust-holder's home jurisdictions. These trusts are not taxed in New Zealand. These trusts can then be used to acquire and own New Zealand registered companies, which become a vehicle by which the trust owners can exercise day to day control over their assets. These New Zealand-registered companies can be designed not to make a profit using loans from tax havens and other profit shifting techniques: the result being tax free income with the general respectability that has typically been associated with companies registered in New Zealand.
Prime Minister John Key responded May 7 to John Doe's remark that he had been "curiously quiet" about tax evasion in the Cook Islands by saying that the whistleblower was confused and probably European. While the Cook Islands use New Zealand currency, "I have as much responsibility for tax in the Cook Islands as I do for taxing Russia." New Zealand does represent the Cook Islands on defence and foreign policy, but not taxation, he said.
In distancing New Zealand from the Cook Islands, Key ignored the close ties between the two countries and the crucial role New Zealand had in setting up the Cook Island taxation system.
Mossack Fonseca approached Niue in 1996 and offered to help set up a tax haven on the tiny South Sea island. The law firm drafted the necessary legislation, permitting offshore companies to operate in total secrecy. They took care of all the paperwork, the island got a modest fee for each filing, and it seemed like quite a deal, even if they were required by law now to provide all banking paperwork in Russian and Chinese as well as English.
Soon the filings almost covered the island's year budget. The US government however made official noises in 2001 about laundering criminal proceeds and Chase Bank blacklisted the island and Bank of New York followed suit. This caused inconvenience to the population so they let their contract with Mossack Fonseca expire and many of the privacy-seekers on the banking world moved on. Some did stay however, apparently; the Panama Papers database lists nearly 10,000 companies and trusts set up on Niue, population 1200.
Many recently created shell companies were set up in Samoa, perhaps after Niue revised its tax laws. The Panama Papers database lists more than 13,000 companies and trusts set up there. Samoa has a population of roughly 200,000.
On May 27, 2015, the US Department of Justice indicted a number of companies and individuals for conspiracy, corruption and racketeering in connection with bribes and kickbacks paid to obtain media and marketing rights for FIFA tournaments. Some immediately entered guilty pleas.
Among those indicted were Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States. They were charged with racketeering and bribery offenses. Others were US and South American sports marketing executives who paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks.
On December 12, 2014, José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, the Brazilian sports marketing conglomerate, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a four-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Hawilla also agreed to forfeit over $151 million, $25 million of which was paid at the time of his plea.
Torneos & Traffic (T&T) is a subsidiary of Fox International Channels since 2005 (with investments since 2002) and is the same company involved in corrupt practices in the acquisition of rights to major South American soccer tournaments.'
Many individuals mentioned in the Panama Papers are connected with the world governing body of association football, FIFA, including the former president of CONMEBOL Eugenio Figueredo; former President of UEFA Michel Platini; former secretary general of FIFA Jérôme Valcke; Argentine player for Barcelona Lionel Messi; and, from Italy, the head manager of Metro, Antonio Guglielmi.
The leak also revealed an extensive conflict of interest between a member of the FIFA Ethics Committee and former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo. Swiss police searched the offices of UEFA, European football's governing body, after the naming of former secretary-general Gianni Infantino as president of FIFA. He had signed a television deal while he was at UEFA with a company called Cross Trading, which the FBI has since accused of bribery. The contract emerged among the leaked documents. Infantino has denied wrongdoing.
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