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 that show some of the ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.
Dubbed the Panama Files, the 11 million documents were leaked from a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca.
They show how the company has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax.
The company says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and has never been charged with criminal wrong-doing.
What the Panama Papers reveal:
1- Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.
2- National leaders with offshore wealth include Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif; former vice-president of Iraq, Ayad Allawi; president of the Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko and the son of Egypt’s former president, Alaa Mubarak.
3- Leaked documents also show the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, and his wife bought an offshore company in 2007. He did not declare an interest in the company when entering parliament in 2009 and sold his 50% to his wife for 70p, eight months later. The offshore company was used to invest millions of dollars of inherited money, according to a document signed by Mr Gunnlaugsson’s wife Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir in 2015.
4- The files also reveal a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring involving close associates of Russia’s President Putin. The operation was run by Bank Rossiya, which is subject to US and EU sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
5- Three former Conservative MPs, six members of the House of Lords and dozens of donors to UK political parties have had offshore assets.
6- Clients of Mossack Fonseca include 23 people who have had sanctions imposed on them for supporting regimes in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Russia, Iran, and Syria.
7- A member of Fifa’s ethics committee, meant to be leading reform at world football’s scandal-hit governing body, acted as a lawyer for individuals and companies recently charged with bribery and corruption.
8- The families of at least eight current and former members of China’s supreme ruling body have been found to have hidden wealth offshore.
9- Mossack Fonseca provided structures designed to hide the identity of real owners including beneficiary services. One American millionaire was apparently offered fake ownership records to hide money from the authorities – this included using a 90-year-old British man as a ‘beneficial owner’.
10- The data also contains secret offshore companies linked to the families and associates of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi and Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad.
The company said: “For 40 years Mossack Fonseca has operated beyond reproach in our home country and in other jurisdictions where we have operations. Our firm has never been accused or charged in connection with criminal wrongdoing.
“If we detect suspicious activity or misconduct, we are quick to report it to the authorities. Similarly, when authorities approach us with evidence of possible misconduct, we always cooperate fully with them.”