The Panama Papers: Here’s What We Know

Among those named were President Mauricio Macri of Argentina; President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine; Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, then the prime minister of Iceland; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan; King Salman of Saudi Arabia; the former emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and its former prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani; FIFA officials; and the Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi, according to the consortium.

The cellist Sergei Roldugin, a close friend of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, was also named in the documents. The Guardian described Mr. Roldugin as being at the center of a $2 billion scheme “in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore.”

Juan Armando Hinojosa, who has been described as the “favorite contractor” of the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, was also mentioned in the leaked documents, which the consortium said showed that he had created “a complex offshore network” spread across nine corporate entities in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to hold roughly $100 million. Mr. Hinojosa was said to have created that financial arrangement shortly after he was embroiled in controversy over the sale of a $7 million house to Mexico’s first lady.

Mossack Fonseca also counted among its clients close associates of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, according to the BBC, and eight current and former members of China’s Politburo and the families of Chinese officials. Dozens of influential donors and politicians in Britain have also been named, including Ian Cameron, the father of Prime Minister David Cameron, who ran an offshore investment fund that avoided paying taxes in the United Kingdom, according to The Guardian. The elder Mr. Cameron died in 2010.

Are any Americans named in the leaked documents?

The documents indicated that 3,500 people who owned shares in offshore companies provided the Panamanian law firm with an address in the United States, but that does not mean they are American citizens. Scanned copies of at least 200 American passports were included in the trove of documents, according to McClatchy, which said that many appeared to be retirees using offshore companies to buy real estate in Latin America.

In addition, almost 3,100 companies incorporated by the law firm were linked to what McClatchy called “offshore professionals” based in the United States.

Video

Mossack Fonseca on Data Leak

A co-founder of Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm whose offices provide offshore financial services, reacted to news reports about the company’s international ties.


By REUTERS on Publish Date April 4, 2016.


Photo by Alejandro Bolivar/European Pressphoto Agency.

Watch in Times Video »

But it is not clear how many United States citizens were implicated in the schemes described by the articles. So far, the documents have connected no American politicians or other influential people to Mossack Fonseca, according to McClatchy and Fusion.

One reason there may be relatively few Americans named in the documents is that it is fairly easy to form shell companies in the United States. James Henry, an economist and senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network, told Fusion that Americans “really don’t need to go to Panama.”

“Basically, we have an onshore haven industry in the U.S. that is as secretive as anywhere,” he said.

Do the Panama Papers show evidence of any crimes?

It is not clear. Several countries began investigations into the leaked data on Monday, including the United States, France, Germany, Australia, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Holding money in an offshore company is generally not illegal, although such financial arrangements can be used in illegal ways — for example, to facilitate tax evasion or money laundering.

What has Mossack Fonseca said about the leak?

In a lengthy statement to The Guardian, the Panamanian law firm defended its practices and appeared to threaten the news agency with legal action.

The firm said that it was “legal and common for companies to establish commercial entities in different jurisdictions for a variety of legitimate reasons” and maintained that it had “always complied with international protocols” to the best of its ability to ensure that companies it incorporated were not being used for illegal or illicit purposes.

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But it said the news agency had obtained “unauthorized access to proprietary documents and information taken from our company.”

“Using information/documentation unlawfully obtained is a crime, and we will not hesitate to pursue all available criminal and civil remedies,” its spokesman, Carlos Sousa, wrote.

What has been the fallout from the leak so far?

One of the first major repercussions occurred on Tuesday in Iceland, where Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson resigned, a day after thousands of people protested outside Parliament calling for him to step down.

Mr. Gunnlaugsson’s name appeared in the leaked documents in connection with an offshore company he established in the British Virgin Islands with a partner, whom he later married. The leak suggested that he had sold his shares of the company to his wife for $1 just before a new law took effect that would have required him to report his ownership of it as a conflict of interest.

Mr. Gunnlaugsson maintained that he had not concealed his assets or avoided paying tax.

On Monday in Chile, the president of the country’s branch of Transparency International, an anti-corruption group, quit after the Panama Papers linked him to at least five offshore companies.

The organization said in a statement that though its president, Gonzalo Delaveau Swett, was not accused of illegal activities, it was “deeply troubled by what has happened.”

Many of the other figures named in the leaks have denied any wrongdoing. A spokesman for the Kremlin, Dmitri Peskov, called the Panama Papers a case of “Putinophobia” and a plot to destabilize the country.

The spokesman’s wife was also named in the documents as the owner of an offshore company.

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