Panama Papers: Document leak exposes global corruption, secrets of the rich
The financial secrets of heads of state, athletes, billionaires and drug lords have been exposed in the latest — and biggest ever — leak of records from an offshore tax haven.
The leak includes 11.5 million confidential documents shedding light on the assets and murky fiscal dealings of everyone from the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan to soccer player Leo Messi, movie star Jackie Chan and associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The records, dating as far back as 1977, come from a little-known but highly influential Panama-based law firm called Mossack Fonseca, which has 500 staff working in 40-plus countries. The firm is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies — corporate structures that can be used to hide ownership of assets.
German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung obtained the files from a source and shared them with global media partners, including CBC News and the Toronto Star, through the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
CBC News will be exploring more of what’s in the documents, including Canadian connections, in a series of stories this week.
“These findings show how deeply ingrained harmful practices and criminality are in the offshore world,” said Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley and author of The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens.
Zucman, who was briefed on the media partners’ investigation, said the release of the leaked documents should prompt governments to seek “concrete sanctions” against jurisdictions and institutions that peddle offshore secrecy.
While offshore accounts are not in themselves illegal, the leaked records show they are often used to shield illicit dealings.
In a written response to questions from the media consortium, Mossack Fonseca said it “does not foster or promote illegal acts.”
“Your allegations that we provide shareholders with structures supposedly designed to hide the identity of the real owners are completely unsupported and false,” the firm said. (Source: CBC News)