The hidden wealth of some of the world’s most prominent leaders, politicians and celebrities has been revealed by an unprecedented leak of millions of documents which show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.
Journalists from more than 80 countries have been reviewing 11.5m files leaked from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm. The offshore holdings of some 140 politicians from more than 50 countries are exposed in this biggest leak of all times.
The records, called “the Panama leaks”, were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with the Guardian and a number of other media across Europe and the world.
The document comes from the records of the firm, which was founded in 1977. The information is near live, with the most recent records dating from December 2015.
Three hundred and 70 reporters from 100 media organisations have spent a year analysing and verifying the documents.
The Panama records reveal:
- Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.
- A $2bn trail leads all the way to Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s best friend – a cellist named Sergei Roldugin – is at the centre of a scheme in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore. Some of it ends up in a ski resort, where in 2013, Putin’s daughter Katerina, was married.
- 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; Alaa Mubarak, the son of Egypt’s former president; and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.
- The families of at least eight current and former members of China’s supreme ruling body, the politburo, have been found to have hidden wealth offshore.
- Twenty-three individuals who have had sanctions imposed on them for supporting the regimes in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Russia, Iran and Syria have been clients of Mossack Fonseca. Their companies were harboured by the Seychelles, the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other jurisdictions.
In the case of Vladimir Putin, though the Russian president’s name does not appear in any of the records, the data reveals a pattern – his friends have earned millions from deals which very likely could not have been secured without his patronage.