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The Panama and Paradise Papers, 3 Years Later

Photo Credit: Center for Economic and Social Rights

2016: Panama

In April 2016, an anonymous whistleblower leaked 11.5 million documents to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitun. In what would soon be known as the Panama Papers, it was revealed that thousands of high profile individuals were hiding billions of dollars in more than 214,000 tax havens. Using these shell companies set-up by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, politicians, celebrities, athletes, billionaires, and drug traffickers were able to hide billions of dollars in offshore accounts.

Some names in this leak include King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Lionel Messi, Tiger Woods, Jackie Chan, Stanley Kubrick, Emma Watson, as well as thousands of politicians and diplomats from nearly every nation. Additionally, a number of companies were found to own offshore companies, including Apple, McDonalds, Twitter, Uber, Walmart, Nike, Siemens, Disney, and Yahoo.

This is not even the tip of the iceberg.

2017: Paradise

In November of 2017, an even bigger document leak was published, again by Süddeutsche Zeitun. The new data leak, comprising 13.4 million documents known as the Paradise Papers, was linked to Bermuda-based legal firm, Appleby.

This time around, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Vladimir Putin, Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and current Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin were named, among many others. Companies named include Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Blackstone, Barclays, and Bayer.

Additionally it was discovered that numerous universities  grew their endowments by investing in offshore accounts, including Duke, Columbia, Indiana, Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge.

In 2018, a secondary leak of Mossack Fonseca documents uncovers more nefarious activity among the world’s elite.

Both investigations required months of research, including hundreds of journalists from all around the world. One such journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a leading anti-corruption journalist in Malta, was assassinated in a car bombing having been reporting on Maltese government officials’ involvement in the Mossack Fonseca at the time of her death.

In the years since these discoveries, not much has changed.

Despite thousands of people being implicated in the involvement, only a few have been prosecuted. In the US, only four people have been convicted for their involvement in fraudulent schemes, all of whom organized shell companies for clients.

So, what about those at Mossack Fonseca and Appleby?

In February 2017, the co-founders of the Panamanian firm, Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, were detained and later released on $500,000 bail. Neither have yet faced trial. The namesake law firm closed down in March of 2018. Appleby is still very much in business and continues to specialize in off-shore legal services.

Let us know in the poll below if you think those who benefited from these offshore schemes should be prosecuted.

  • Should Those Implicated in the Data Leaks Face Prosecution?

    • Yes
    • No
    • Only Some of Them

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Written by Matt Sullivan

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