The leak of the so-called Panama Papers has certainly set the cat of popular disgust among the pigeons of the super-wealthy global elite. But, of course, pigeons can fly away.
The Panama papers contain 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.
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 documents transactions as far back as the 1970s and eventually totalled 2.6 terabytes of data. Given the scale of the leak, the newspaper enlisted the help of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which distributed the documents for investigation and analysis to some 400 journalists at 107 media organizations in 76 countries.
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 documents show how (more…)