The Panama Papers: ‘Biggest Leak in History’ Exposes Global Web of Corruption

Written by on April 4, 2016 in Corruption, Government with 14 Comments
The Panama Papers is one of the biggest leaks and largest collaborative investigations in journalism history. (Photo: Screenshot)

The Panama Papers is one of the biggest leaks and largest collaborative investigations in journalism history. (Photo: Screenshot)

By Deirdre Fulton | Common Dreams

An anonymous source, an enormous cache of leaked documents, and a year-long investigative effort by around 400 journalists from more than 100 media organizations in over 80 countries have yielded the Panama Papers, an unprecedented look at how the world's rich and powerful, from political leaders to celebrities to criminals, use tax havens to hide their wealth.

The investigation went live on Sunday afternoon.

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote:

Over a year ago, an anonymous source contacted the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and submitted encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that sells anonymous offshore companies around the world. These shell firms enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady.

In the months that followed, the number of documents continued to grow far beyond the original leak. Ultimately, SZ acquired about 2.6 terabytes of data, making the leak the biggest that journalists had ever worked with. The source wanted neither financial compensation nor anything else in return, apart from a few security measures.

The data provides rare insights into a world that can only exist in the shadows. It proves how a global industry led by major banks, legal firms, and asset management companies secretly manages the estates of the world’s rich and famous: from politicians, Fifa officials, fraudsters and drug smugglers, to celebrities and professional athletes.

“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, 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.

Fusion dubbed it “the WikiLeaks of the mega-rich.”

In a statement on Sunday, international anti-corruption organization Global Witness said the exposé had “once again shown the insidious role that tax havens, corporate secrecy and shell companies play in aiding widespread crime, corruption, and violence. These threaten the safety, security and well-being of people around the world.”

The group pointed out that “despite stereotypes portraying the problem of tax havens and shell companies as an ‘offshore' problem, this is a big and homegrown issue in the U.S. as well.” To that end, Global Witness will join faith leaders, small business owners, voices from law enforcement, and other community activists from over 25 states in Washington, D.C. from April 11-13 to call on Congress to pass legislation that would end anonymous companies.

The hashtag #PanamaPapers was trending on Twitter:

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14 Reader Comments

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  1.' Pedro J Zevallos says:

    Jail them all

  2.' Barbara McGinness says:

    Busted watch..nothing will happen

    •' Robin Cameron says:

      In Britain, HMRC is taking it all very seriously. Nothing will happen overnight, because the haul of files is so huge, but they will close in on any British based tax avoiders. They’ll be caught.

    •' Rety Bruce says:

      Is ironic that someone risked their wellbeing and the CORPORATE media is hiding it again. Keeping it TOP SECRET!
      NAMES! Give us all the names! Where are the Western countries NAMES; USA, Canada, Australia,UK etc; ( PanamaPapers) ! DOJ has the files! Release the files to all of us to know! Is proof of a systematic corruption and unethical behavior! “Proving that certain behavior is “legal” does not prove that it is ethical or just. That’s because corrupted political systems, by definition, often protect and legalize exactly the behavior that is most unjust. Vital journalism does not only expose law breaking. It also highlights how corrupted political and legal systems can be co-opted by the most powerful in order to legally sanction atrocious and destructive behavior that serves their interests, typically with little or no public awareness that it’s been done.”

  3.' Kyle Griffin says:

    how about we start de-criminalizing the people who evade tax and start criminalizing the idea of tax in the first place. if even the politicians who put these taxes in place arent going to pay for them, why the hell should anyone else?

  4.' Saima Shehzad says:

    @ Focus Point

  5.' Ranu Manali says:

    Shocking news

  6.' Joanne Simoneit says:

    See the Veterans Today article…posted today…about this. They say it is a scam.

  7.' David James Russel says:

    No surprise………………

  8.' David James Russel says:

    An exceptional life-changing and life-enriching audio/book
    Helps fund the work of the Foundation

  9.' Sandy J L'Homme says:

    Truth is out there

  10.' Rajrishi Singh Hada says:

    Death sentence n whole property sesur is the only way to stop this

  11.' Rajrishi Singh Hada says:

    Even today’s white property be scanned .The pay tax on right time for it or not n earnings sours .All neta n industrialists will be behind the bar .

  12.' Cesar David Granados E says:

    “leave earth before the ruling class destroys it” – Stephen Hawking

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