WRITTEN BY: ANTHONY PEARSON
In the age of information, it has gotten harder and harder to keep something on the down low. From entertainment gossip to government secrets, it seems that almost every year a new scandal erupts around the world. Moving into the second quarter of 2016, this year appears to be no different.
On April 3, 2016, 11.5 million confidential documents from Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca were leaked to the press. The documents reveal information about how many of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful individuals – including many world leaders and their relatives – hide their money from the prying eyes of the law and public. The leak includes details on more than 214,000 offshore companies and the people associated with them. While involvement in offshore business is not illegal on its own, many of these corporate bodies are used in illegal activities including fraud, tax evasion, and a number of other money related crimes that use legal loopholes that are available to corporate bodies.
The importance of this leak comes from those involved. The network of secret companies, deals and loans have led straight to important figures such as Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, as well as to companies controlled by the prime ministers of Pakistan and Iceland, the latter of which has since resigned. Other important figures exposed by leak include the president of Argentina, the former PM of Georgia, the president of Ukraine, the king of Saudi Arabia, British PM David Cameron’s father – from which Cameron has admitted to profiting from – and a number of other public figures and their relatives (a list of which can be found here).
Mossack Fonseca has responded to the leak, telling the AFP news agency that the leak “[…] is a crime, a felony. Privacy is a fundamental human right that is being eroded more and more in the modern world. […] Each person has a right to privacy, whether they are a king or a beggar.” While that may be true, many proponents of the leak suggest that a right to privacy should not absolve individuals from crimes, especially when the crimes equate to billions of dollars.
Due to the massive and recent nature of the leak, it is likely that new names and statistics will be revealed over the next few months. As of now, it is notable that the United States government has yet to be implicated in the massive leak. For more information, check out the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ website on the Panama papers here.