Compared to Panama Papers, famous leaks such as the 2010’s WikiLeaks (1.7 GB), 2015’s HSBC files (3.3 GB) and even the massive Offshore Secrets leak from 2013 (260 GB) look microscopic. The leak from Mossack Fonseca, one of the biggest law firms in the world (with more than 300.000 clients worldwide) consists of over 11.5 million files and 2.6 TB of information, making it one of the biggest data breaches in recent history. The data contains PDF files, emails, photos and more, covering the period that spans from the late 70s to the December of 2015.
The Legal Implications: How a Sure Thing Turned Rotten
More than a year ago, German newspaper agency Süddeutsche Zeitung was contacted by an anonymous source about the then-unknown law firm that specializes in creating shell companies, based in Panama. It turned out that Mossack Fonseca’s shell companies were being held in countries with strict privacy laws, which were used to obscure the business transactions. After reviewing the files and verifying the source’s claims, Süddeutsche Zeitung partnered with over a hundred media outlets across the world (including the Guardian and the BBC) to report on the leaked data.
While the leak caused a lot of controversy, the fact is – using offshore structures is completely legal. Businessmen in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, and Serbia have been putting their assets in offshore accounts for years in order to protect them from criminal raids and because of the economic sanctions.. While there is nothing illegal about an offshore investment, the reason why this case is causing such a racket is because criminals often use shell companies to commit fraud, and there are many extremely wealthy and famous individuals on the list of the affected and compromised. Which makes this case particularly intriguing. The proceeds of one of the most famous robberies in London (the gold bar theft from Brink’s-MAT depot) may have passed through some of Mossack Fonseca’s offshore structures, presumably. With that sort of reputation, this case will become one of the most notorious conspiracies on a global scale in the recent history.
People Involved: Celebrities, Athletes, Companies and Heads of States
The data contains information on more than 140 politicians, from more than 50 countries, including the Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko. The prime minister of Iceland Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson is certainly one of the most famous incidents of this case. But perhaps most interestingly, the data revealed that some of Vladimir Putin’s closest friends have accumulated vast, secret fortunes. The public seems to be on the side of David Cameron, who is also among the accused, but many are facing unpleasant inquires as well. From Elon Musk, some of the US state officials and even the currently active presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, to journalists, award winning writers and a long list of entrepreneurs and companies – Panama is endangering hundreds of successful individuals who are now under media spotlight in their countries.
The files have shown links between some of the FIFA’s top officials and businessmen accused of corruption, in fact, the name of Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s former secretary general has popped-up in the documents. Other celebrities such as the footballer Lionel Messi, and several other players and former players, are also mentioned. Including Darko Kovačević, Leonardo Ulloa and Andy Cole. Even some of the famous movie makers are also mentioned. For instance, Spanish movie director Pedro Almodóvar, and even his family members, are also on the list. Stanley Kubrick, Jackie Chan, David Geffen Simon Cowell and Sean Connery’s wife are some of the more famous clients of Mossack Fonseca.
The list of business people involved in this case is considerably long. But even some of the well respected businessmen, who’ve kept their records clean and careers intact, are now compromised due to their business with this law firm. Some of the world renowned entrepreneurs and magnates are: Santiago Rosselló, former Spanish banker. Omar Aggad, the former director of the successful Arab Palestinian Investment Company. Richard Attias, a Moroccan businessman, who became interesting due to his marriage with Cecilia Attias. Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining industrialist who hardly had a spot on his name prior to the case is now under the attack of media is also mentioned. Anders Wall, who is the former chairman of Volvo, than a former Yugoslavian rock star, now the head of I&F McCann Grupa, Srdjan Šaper, following Manuel Fernández de Sousa, the former president of the Spanish fishing company Pescanova and the list goes on.
Although many politicians refused to comment on the situation, the aforementioned president of Russia has blamed “Putinophobia” for the allegations that he is somehow linked to the scandal; furthermore, he claims that his associates and other world politicians “had done nothing wrong”. In the next couple of weeks (maybe even months), we should expect more reports and findings from different media outlets with the access to the Panama Papers. Furthermore, laws vary from country to country, so we will have to wait and see what international conventions were violated and if any money could be seized.