The Panama Papers, a collection of 11.5 million files leaked from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, just went live online. The documents show in blistering detail just how exactly the world’s 1 percent – including Russian president Vladimir Putin – manipulate secretive offshore wealth. The leak is larger than both the WikiLeaks incident of 2010 and the Edward Snowden leak of 2013. The documents explicitly reveal how Mossack Fonseca facilitates tax evasion and offshore money laundering for its wealthy clients.
German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung received the Panama Papers from an anonymous source more than a year ago. The paper then partnered with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to analyze the data. “Panama Papers is the biggest-ever international cooperation of its kind,” reported a team of four journalists in Süddeutsche Zeitung. “In the past 12 months, around 400 journalists from more than 100 media organizations in over 80 countries have taken part in researching the documents.” The data leaked spans of the last 45 years.
The BBC, another one of the media organizations wading through the data, says the leak implicates 72 current and former heads of state. More than 100 others — politicians, celebrities, public officials — are also tied to the breach.
Meanwhile, the ICIJ says up to $2 billion has been linked specifically to Putin via “shadow companies” and shady offshore deals. His close friend Sergei Roldugin is listed in the documents as the owner of various offshore companies being investigated.
As Sddeutsche Zeitung and the other organizations involved are quick to point out, there’s nothing inherently illegal about the act of owning an offshore company. However, the Panama Papers clearly indicate bribery, corruption, and the violation of business sanctions, as well as involvement with the Mafia.
Mossack Fonseca has denied involvement in any illegal activity.