By: Max Bruns and James Neyer ~Staff Writers~
Detailed information about more than 214,000 offshore companies listed by the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca was recently released to the public.
After a year-long investigation of a 2.6 terabyte leak to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), 149 documents and preliminary news reports were released on April 3.
The Panama Papers, as the ICIJ reported the leak is called, contains 11.5 million documents dating back four decades, and every company or individual related to Mossack Fonseca is mentioned, according to the New York Times, CNN and The Guardian.
The actual information in the papers reveals connections between the wealthy clients of Mossack Fonseca to more than 300,000 businesses located offshore.
For example, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s controversial president, is being linked to more than $3 billion in offshore holdings.
Other prominent figures named within the documents include members of Putin’s government, the King of Saudi Arabia and the Ukrainian Prime Minister, who resigned after the reveal.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s father was also implicated in the papers, and Cameron admitted that he benefited from this offshore investment company. Though this company was not required to pay taxes, Cameron defended his involvement as being within the law.
Economist James Henry, speculated as to the reason many members of the U.S. elite were not named.
“Basically, we have an onshore haven industry in the U.S. that is as secretive as anywhere,” Henry said.
However, around 200 U.S. citizens have been implicated in the papers, including citizens previously found guilty of Ponzi schemes and tax evasion.
The financial community is abuzz with the implications. These offshore accounts raise suspicions of tax evasion and the covering up of possible further criminal activity, according to the New York Times.
Some clients were even subjected to international sanctions, including companies in Iran, Zimbabwe and North Korea. One such company had helped expand North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
However, the reasons for having an account are not necessarily illegal. Some legitimate reasons include protection against price raising or kidnapping.
While little concrete information has been revealed, further investigations are leading to more in-depth questions for the named individuals, and the ICIJ is spearheading most of the research.
The papers themselves have yet to be released for people to peruse, but the ICIJ plans to publish a full list of companies in early May.