By Sam Shikora (Political Editor).
Suspicions regarding world leaders, athletes, actors and other celebrities have arisen.
On April 3rd, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, in conjunction with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), leaked over 2.6 terabytes of information about offshore companies, and the many world leaders and their families involved with hiding funds overseas.
This leak, known as Panama Papers, includes 11.5 million documents dating back to the 1970s. The documents were compiled by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, hence the name “Panama Papers”.
The government heads of many countries in South America, Central America, Africa, and Asia, as well as several European Union countries, were found to be involved with over 214,000 offshore shell companies.
The acting heads of state of Argentina, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, and Ukraine were found to have the most profound roles in hiding money offshore of the many named. Many of those who were named in the Panama papers were relatives or close friends of other world leaders.
However, those who were caught red-handed were not all government officials. Others include popular names, such as Jackie Chan, Lionel Messi, and countless other celebrities.
Interestingly, few American citizens were named, which raises a question of how and why they were able to slip through the cracks.
It is important to note that the Panama Papers do not necessarily indicate any illegal activity, but shell companies and hiding funds offshore are often used to mask transactions and/or ownership of assets.
According to the ICIJ, the full extent of the Panama Papers has yet to be released; the rest will be available in early May. However, those named thus far have refuted the claims against them.
The Russian Kremlin described allegations against associates of Vladimir Putin as “a series of fibs.” In response to one of its committee members being mentioned, FIFA wrote the documents off as “ridiculous”.
The President of Argentina and the Prime Minister of Iceland are likely facing the worst of all of those named.
Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugson, of Iceland, has come under fire in recent days. His wife’s name was among those on the list of those who were hiding money in an offshore company. Despite making statements denying personal involvement, Gunnlaugson walked out of an interview with a Swedish news station when asked what assets the company he was linked with had.
Gunnlaugson said that his wife’s shell company enjoyed no tax advantages and was created to avoid conflicts of interest at home in Iceland. According to a document that both Gunnlaugson and his wife signed, the offshore company was used to invest millions of dollars of uninherited money.
Before leaving the interview, Gunnlaugson said, “what are you trying to make up here? This is totally inappropriate.”
In light of an 8,000 person protest in Reykjavik, the largest in Icelandic history, Gunnlaugson resigned from the presidency on April 5th.
Like Gunnlaugson, Mauricio Macri, the President of Argentina, has also been found to be quite involved with offshore companies. He claims that the companies were legal and passed down to him by his father. Despite developing criticisms against the president, Argentine journalist Joaquín Morales Solá says that it is unlikely that he will be tried for his wrongdoings.
In the coming days, expect further controversy. Much of the content of the Panama Papers, any updates that occur, response and analyses can be accessed on https://panamapapers.icij.org.