The Panama Papers are a leaked set of 11.5 million confidential documents that provide detailed information about more than 214,000 offshore companies listed by the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, including the identities of shareholders and directors of the companies. The documents show how wealthy individuals, including public officials, hide their money from public scrutiny. At the time of publication, the papers 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. The British Virgin Islands was home to half of the companies exposed and Hong Kong contained the most affiliated banks, law firms and middlemen.
While the use of offshore business entities is not illegal in the jurisdictions in which they are registered, during their investigation reporters found that some of the shell companies may have been used for illegal purposes, including fraud, drug trafficking, and tax evasion.
An anonymous source using the pseudonym “John Doe” made the documents available in batches to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung beginning in early 2015. The information from this unremunerated whistleblower documents transactions as far back as the 1970s and eventually totaled 2.6 terabytes of data. Given the scale of the leak, the newspaper enlisted the help of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ, based in Washington, D.C.), which distributed documents for investigation and analysis to some 400 journalists at 107 media organizations in 76 countries. The first news reports based on the papers, and 149 of the documents themselves, were published on April 3, 2016. The ICIJ promises to publish a full list of companies involved in early May 2016.
From an internal leaked memorandum
Ninety-five per cent of our work coincidentally consists in selling vehicles to avoid taxes.
Partner of Mossack Fonseca
While no formal definition exists, a jurisdiction is typically considered an offshore financial center, sometimes less formally known as a tax haven, when its banking infrastructure:
- Primarily provides services to people or businesses who are not its residents
- Require little or no information disclosures before doing business
- Offer low taxes. Their customers may require offshore accounts for any of a number of reasons, some entirely legal and ethically irreproachable.
However “the most obvious use of offshore financial centers is to avoid taxes”, as journalists and researchers such as The Economist and the Tax Justice Network have previously remarked. Igor Angelini, head of Europol‘sFinancial Intelligence Group, also recently said that theshell companies used for this purpose also “play an important role in large-scale money laundering activities” and also corruption: they are often a means to “transfer bribe money”.
Law firms generally play a central role in offshore financial operations. Mossack Fonseca,the Panamanian law firm whose work product was leaked in the Panama papers affair, is one of the biggest in the business. Its services to its 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, multi-level and multi-national corporate structures.
Mossack Fonseca has acted on behalf of more than 300,000 companies, most of them registered in financial centers which are British Overseas Territories. The firm works with the world’s biggest financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Société Générale, Credit Suisse, UBS, Commerzbank and Nordea.
The Tax Justice Network called Panama one of the oldest and best-known tax havens in the Americas, and “the recipient of drugs money from Latin America, plus ample other sources of dirty money from the US and elsewhere”, according to The Conversation. Panama has been repeatedly listed in the recent years as a jurisdiction does not cooperate with international tax transparency initiatives.[
Leak timeline and logistics
A conversation betweenSüddeutsche Zeitung and theanonymous source
More than a year before the April 2016 release of the leaked documents, an anonymous source,who identified himself as “John Doe” offered German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) large caches of sensitive banking documents. The newspaper accepted and in the space of a year received 2.6 terabytes of data made up ofMossack Fonseca documents about 214,488 offshore entities with ties to public officials. The leaked documents number 11.5 million and were created between the 1970s and late 2015 by Mossack Fonseca.
At his insistence, reporters communicated with the source over encrypted channels only. Anonymity and an understanding that there would never meet face-to-face were only his conditions for providing the documents. He said his life was in danger but declined renumeration. “There are a couple of conditions,” he said. “My life is in danger, we will only chat over encrypted [lines]. No meeting ever.”
Accordind to Süddeutsche Zeitung reporter Bastian Obermayer, the source said that he decided to leak the data because he thought that Mossack Fonseca acted unethically.”The source thinks that this law firm in Panama is doing real harm to the world, and the source wants to end that. That’s one of the motivations,” said Obermayer said.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) helped organize the research and document review once Süddeutsche Zeitung realized the scale of the footwork required to validate the authenticity of leak. Additional stories based on this data are in the works, and the full list of companies is to be released in early May 2016. They enlisted reporters and resources from The Guardian, the BBC, Le Monde,SonntagsZeitung, Falter, La Nación and German broadcastersNDR and WDR, and Austrian braodcaster ORF, and eventually many others.
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.
About 400 journalists from 107 media organizations in 80 countries at some point received and analyzed leak documents detailing the operations of the law firm and its clients’ shell companies After more than a year of reporting, the first news stories based on the documents were published on 3 April 2016, along with 149 of the documents themselves. The data concerned the operations and workings of some 214,000 shell companies. Reporters sorted the documents into a huge file structure containing a folder for each shell company, which held the 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 format files, 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. Sueddeutsche Zeitung reporters also used Nuix for this, proprietary software donated by an Australian company also named Nuix.
Using Nuix, SZ reporters also performed optical character recognition (OCR) processing on the millions of scanned documents, and the data they contained became both searchable and machine-readable. Most reporters then used Neo4J and Linkurious to extract individual and corporate names from the documents for analysis, but a few used Nuix for this as well.They then cross-matched the compiled lists of people against the processed documents. In the next step the reporters analyzed their information, trying to connect people, roles, monetary flow and structure legality.
Mossack Fonseca did notify its clients on 1 April 2016 that it had sustained an email hack. When the document leak became public. the firm dismissed any connection to the email hack and described it as limited in scope. ICIJ had already had the leaked data for more a year by then, so possibly the two were indeed entirely separate events. Data security experts noted, however, that the company had not been encrypting its emails and furthermore seems to have been running a three-year-old version of Drupal with several known vulnerabilities.
Clients of Mossack Fonseca
Reports from April 3 noted financial and power connections to multiple high-ranking political figures and their relatives.
United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Several national leaders were named, including presidents Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, as well as the Prime Minister of IcelandSigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. Former heads of state mentioned in the papers include Sudanese PresidentAhmed al-Mirghani, the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and prime ministers of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili, of Iraq Ayad Allawi, of Jordan Ali Abu al-Ragheb, former prime minister of Qatar Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, former Ukrainian prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko, and Ion Sturza ofMoldova
The leaked files identified 61 family members and associates of prime ministers, presidents and kings, including the late father of British prime minister David Cameron, the brother-in-law of China‘sparamount leader Xi Jinping,the son of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, the children of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, the nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma, the grandson of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the personal secretary of Moroccan KingMohammed VI, and the “favourite contractor” of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Former Georgian Prime MinisterBidzina Ivanishvili with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
Other clients included less-senior government officials and their close relatives and associates, from over forty different countries, including Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Malta, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Poland, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Syria, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Venezuela and Zambia.
Many individuals mentioned in the Panama Papers were connected with the world governing body of association football,FIFA, including former President of CONMEBOL Eugenio Figueredo, former President of UEFA Michel Platini, former Secretary General of FIFA Jérôme Valcke, Argentine player Lionel Messi, and from Italy, the head manager of “Metro” Antonio Guglielmi.
The leak also revealed an extensive conflict of interest connection 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.
Passports of at least 200 Americans were discovered in the Papers, but no US politicians have been named in the leak so far.
Mossack Fonseca ran six businesses for Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, despite US sanctions against him. DCB Finance, a Virgin Islands-based shell company founded by 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 Department of the Treasury in 2013 called DCB Finance a front company for Daedong Credit Bank and announced sanctions against both companies for providing banking services to 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.
According to TeleSUR, United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan “used the services of Mossack Fonseca to establish at least 30 companies in the British Virgin Islands that owned and operated US$1.7 billion worth of commercial and residential assets for the Sheikh in high-end neighborhoods in the United Kingdom.” Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif‘s three children — Mariam Safdar, Hasan and Hussain Nawaz Sharif are among the over 200 members of the Pakistani elite listed in the Panama Papers as owners of offshore companies in a tax haven.
Popular Indian celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan are also involved, along with the real estate developer, DLF owner Kushal Pal Singh, and Sameer Gehlaut of the Indiabulls group, as well as Gautam Adani‘s elder brother Vinod Adani. Indian politicians on the list include Shishir Bajoriafrom West Bengal and Anurag Kejriwal, the former chief of the Delhi unit of Loksatta Party.
Actor Jackie Chan has been mentioned in the leaks as a shareholder of six companies based in the British Virgin Islands.
Among the celebrities involved in this list, the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, who (along with his brother Augustine) created a company called Glen Valley in the British Virgin Islands, which are a tax haven. Mexican actress Edith Gonzalez was related through her husband Lorenzo Lazo, who was a Televisa partner, Veracruz governor and currently owns an airline online. Similarly, it is ensuring that the president of TV Azteca, Banco Azteca and Azteca Foundation, Benjamin Ricardo Salinas Pliego, used an offshore company set up in the Virgin Islands with Panamanian firm for the purchase of a yacht. Puerto Rican recording artist Daddy Yankeeappeared inside the huge leak of information from the Panama Papers.
Icelandic Prime Minister
Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Prime Minister of Iceland until April 5, 2016.
Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir, the wife of Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson held an interest in the country’s failed banks through offshore company Wintris Inc. Sigmundur Davíð, elected after the 2008 banking collapse in Iceland, had pledged to clean up corruption in the banking system. The couple bought Wintris in 2007 from Mossack Fonseca through the Luxembourg branch of Landsbanki. But Sigmundur Davíð didn’t declare his interest in the company when he entered parliament in 2009, and didn’t sell his 50% of Wintris to his wife—for $1 — until eight months later, on the day before a new law took effect that would have required him to declare the conflict of interest.
Contacted by ICIJ journalists ahead of publication, the couple issued statements about journalist encroachment on their private lives and insisted on their disclosures were complete and the company paid taxes in Iceland. However, since his position involved negotiating with bank creditors and his wife as a bondholder was among them, citizens felt he had a strong conflict of interest. Calls for a snap election inparliament were expected, but following the papers’ release, faced calls for his resignation instead. Between 22,000 and 24,000 people attended a protest outside parliament on April 4, 2016, and Edward Snowdenwondered in a tweet if this constituted the “largest protest by percentage of population in history”.
On April 4, 2016, Sigmundur Davíð announced on live television that he would not resign in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations, calling their content “nothing new”. He said he had not broken any rules and that his wife did not benefit financially from his decisions. However, on April 5, he asked the President of Iceland to dissolve Parliament and call for a general election. The president refused, saying it was not clear that other parties supported the move. Sigmundur Davíð announced his resignation April 5, though later press statements from his office suggested that he merely “stepped aside” for a time.
Juan Armando Hinojosa
In 2015 Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, a close friend of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, enlisted Mossack Fonseca to create trusts for accounts worth $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 $2.8 billion in state money, The New York Times reported last year.
Proceeds of the Brink’s-Mat robbery
Over £10 million of cash from the sale of the gold stolen in the Brink’s-Mat robbery was laundered, first unwittingly and later with the complicity of Mossack Fonseca, through a Panamanian company set up on behalf of an unnamed client twelve months after the robbery. The money was put through Feberion, which had issuedbearer shares only, and other front companies, via banks in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Jersey, and the Isle of Man. Two nominee directors from Sark were appointed to Feberion. The offshore firms served to recycle the funds through transactions in land and property in the United Kingdom.Although the Metropolitan Police raided the offices of Centre Services late 1986 in cooperation with the Jersey authorities and seized papers and the two Feberion bearer shares, only in 1995 did Brink’s-Mat solicitors finally take control of Feberion and assets.
Mossack Fonseca companies
Mossack Fonseca has managed more than 300,000 companies over the years, with the number of active companies peaking at over 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 USD $2 trillion has passed through the firm’s hands. Several of the holding companies that appear in the documents either 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 Suissefrom 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’s Nordea bank requested almost 400 holding companies in Panama and the British Virgin Islandsfor their customers between 2004 and 2014. The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (FI) has said that “serious deficiencies” exist in how Nordea monitors for money laundering, and has given the bank two warnings. In 2015 Nordea had to pay the largest possible fine – over 5 million EUR. In 2012 Nordea askedMossack 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. In response to the leaks, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said he is very critical of Nordea’s conduct and role, while Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson characterized the bank’s conduct as “totally unacceptable”.
Mossack Fonseca response
In response to queries from the The Miami Herald and ICIJ, Mossack Fonseca issued a 2900-word statement. In substance, the response identified legal and compliance regimes around the world that reduce the ability of individuals to use offshore companies for tax avoidance and total anonymity. In particular, they cited the FATFprotocols which (for companies and financial institutions in the majority of countries in the world) require identification of ultimate beneficial owners of all companies (including offshore companies) to open accounts and transact business.
In an accompanying Editor’s note, The Miami Herald stated that the Mossack Fonseca statement “did not address any of the specific due-diligence failings uncovered by reporters”.
On Monday, April 4, Mossack Fonseca released a 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, right here in Panama. Obviously, no one likes to have their property stolen, and we intend to do whatever we can to ensure the guilty parties are brought to justice. But in the meantime, our plan is to continue to serve our clients, stand behind our people, and support the local communities in which we have the privilege to work all over the world, just as we’ve done for nearly four decades.” Firm co-founder Ramón Fonseca Mora told CNN that the information published is false and 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. Fonseca also said that the company always have been legal and have been hacked.
In its official statement Mossack Fonseca suggested that responsibility for potential legal violations may lie with failures or lapses by other institutions given that:
“approximately 90% of our clientele is comprised of professional clients, such as international financial institutions as well as trust companies and prominent law and accounting firms, 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.”
In an interview Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca gave to Bloomberg Mossack said: “The cat’s out of the bag, so now we have to deal with the aftermath.”
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 Snowdendescribed the release in a Twitter message as the “biggest leak in the history of data journalism“.
“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.”
International Monetary Fund (IMF) researchers estimated In July 2015 that profit shifting by multinational companies costs developing countries around $213 billion (UGX710tn) a year, almost 2% of their national income.
Ramon Fonseca said the leak was not an “inside job” – the company had been hacked by servers based abroad. It had filed a complaint with the Panamanian attorney general’s office.
On April 7, 2016 is was announced that Jürgen Mossack was resigning from Panama’s council on foreign relations (Conarex). He was not officially serving at the time of his resignation, only his brother Peter Mossackserved on Conarex from 2011 to date.
Official reactions and investigations
Argentine PresidentMauricio Macri
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 Neuquénrepresentative Darío Martínez. Martínez claims Macri could be guilty of perjury due to omissions made in his sworn statement. Martínez also referenced another offshore company, Kagemusha SA (named after Akira Kurosawa’s 1980 film), which had been established in 1981 and to which President Macri also had connections.
The family of Argentine football star Lionel Messi announced that they will file a complaint after reports accused him of assembling a tax evasion network in Panama. 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.
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.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev did not respond to repeated requests for comments.
According to ICIJ website, “The family of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev leads a charmed, glamorous life, thanks in part to financial interests in almost every sector of the economy. … [Aliyev’s daughter] Arzu, have financial stakes in a firm that won rights to mine for gold in the western village of Chovdar and Azerfon, the country’s largest mobile phone business. Arzu is also a significant shareholder in SW Holding, which controls nearly every operation related to Azerbaijan Airlines (“Azal”), from meals to airport taxis. Both sisters and 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.”
According to numerous media outlets, Two conglomerates and thirty-two Bangladeshi shareholders are listed. Top business personalities include Muhammed Aziz Khan, Mohiuddin Monem, and Samson H. Chowdhury. Awami League Presidium member Kazi Zafarullah and his wife Nilufar Zafar are said to be in the list.
On April 7, 2016, The Anti Corruption Commission Bangladesh launched an inquiry to obtain details of the businesses and individuals and said that tax evaders would be brought to trial and punished.
Canadian Prime minister, Justin Trudeau has denied any involvement with the leak saying “I have 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.” The Government has ordered the Canada Revenue Agency to find copies of the Panama Papers, in order to find any Canadians that used offshore accounts to avoid taxes.
The Royal Bank of Canada CEO David McKay announced that the bank set up a team that will look back in four decades of documentation for ties to Mossack Fonseca. CEO Bill Downe of the Bank of Montreal, also defended; saying “Canadian banks have ‘dramatically’ beefed up anti-money laundering controls over the last seven to 10 years.” He also stated that any link between Canadian businesses and the Panama Papers would have originated a long time ago, before the time when Canadian banks took action to stop money laundering.
China‘s leader Xi Jinping with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto
Relatives of highly placed Chinese officials including seven senior leaders and former senior leaders ofPolitburo 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 Communist Party (paramount leader) in 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. China’s government is suppressing mentions of the Panama Papers on social media and in search engines results. China’s Communist party reportedly has told news organizations to delete all content related to the Panama Papers leak.
Considering the material to be a concerted foreign media attack on China, internet information offices were immediately given verbal orders to delete reprinted reports on the Panama Papers, and not to follow up on related content without exceptions. Hong Lei, the spokesman of China’s Foreign Ministry, responded that he had “no comment” for “such groundless accusations” at an April 5 news conference.
China is in the third year of an anti-corruption campaign launched by Xi which has punished more than300,000 party officials for financial misdeeds and created many enemies for Xi.
China authority has blocked almost all information about Panama Papers on Chinese medias and the Internet. A screenshot showed that the authority had enforced all websites delete contents about Panama Papers. Foreign websites such as Wikileak, China Digital Times have been blocked in mainland China. Official medias, like The Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) reported the resignation of Prime Minister of Iceland, but the media never mentioned that the Panama Papers caused the resignation.On Sina Weibo, a twitter-like social media in China, almost all content about the Panama Papers were deleted. Because Xi’s brother-in-law had been named, and the Panama Canal is well known, Weibo users started to use “brother-in-law”, “Canal Papers”, and other such tags to avoid Weibo’s censor.Because of the censorship in mainland China, few Chinese people know of the Panama Papers.
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 placed Panama in its blacklist of tax havens.
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.”
Many senior EU figures have been implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. The European Commissioner for Taxation, Pierre Moscovici, has said that theEuropean 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 theEuropean Commission attempted to tighten tax rules across the union since November 2014 due to the“LuxLeaks” tax avoidance scandal (also revealed by the ICIJ), and 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 Prime Minister of the United KingdomDavid Cameron said that offshore trusts should not automatically be subject to the same transparency requirements as shell companies. Some analysts suggest that these actions may have an impact on the outcome of the upcoming referendum on UK membership of the EU.
Alaa Mubarak, son of former president Hosni Mubarak was cited as owning, through holding companies, real estate properties in London.
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, France restored Panama to its tax havens list from which it had recently been removed.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder and long-time leader of the far-right-wing Front National is mentioned in the documents, together with several aides to his daughterMarine Le Pen, the current party leader.
On April 5, 2016, Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmu