With the benefit of hindsight days after the leaking of documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s largest offshore management companies, serious questions are being asked of the global establishment across all five continents.
Several nations are investigating possible financial crimes by the wealthy and powerful, after 11 million documents held by Mossack Fonseca were passed to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. That publication then passed the documents to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and in the UK the BBC and The Guardian joined a list of 107 media outlets in 76 countries to examine and investigate the contents.
The BBC state that they still do not know the identity of the original source. Whoever it was has sent political shockwaves across the world this week.
The company at the centre of the storm, Mossack Fonseca, appear to have assisted clients evade tax, but the firm say they have been misrepresented by the leak and deny doing anything wrong.
Iceland’s prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson stepped aside this week – reportedly temporarily – after the ‘Panama papers’ revealed he owned an offshore firm with his wife, which he allegedly did not disclose when entering parliament. Gunnlaugsson denies any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is reported by the BBC as denying “any element of corruption” over the leaks, stating that his opponents are trying to destabilise his nation. The papers cited several offshore firms owned by close friends of Putin.
Mr Putin said in a television broadcast, “Western opponents are worried by the unity and solidarity of the Russian nation and that is why they are attempting to rock us from within, to make us more obedient. They’ve found a few of my acquaintances and friends and scraped up something from there and stuck it together.”
The Guardian reports that ‘among national leaders with offshore wealth are Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister; Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine and Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president.’
Meanwhile in the UK prime minister David Cameron is under scrutiny from media and opposition politicians over an offshore investment fund run by his late father Ian, who passed away in 2010. Mr Cameron Senior’s fund Blairmore Holdings has been registered with HMRC since it was founded and always submitted detailed tax returns. David Cameron admits he sold a profitable stake in the investment fund for around £30,000 before he became Prime Minister.