The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published a massive leak of documents, called Panama Papers which reveals the secret dealings of the rich and powerful in the world.
More than 11 million documents, known as the Panama Papers, were leaked by an unknown source at one of the world’s most secretive companies, Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
The documents, which date back four decades from 1977 through the end of 2015, were passed to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung for investigation.
The media organisation then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
According to the records — which were reviewed by a team of more than 370 journalists from 76 countries – the law firm helped establish secret shell companies and offshore accounts for global superpowers. Thus, Mossack Fonseca helped some companies and individuals to make use of tax havens or tax evasion in numerous ways.
Also, a 2015 audit discovered that Mossack Fonseca knew the identities of the real owners of just 204 of 14,086 companies it had incorporated in Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago often described as a tax haven.
The documents implicated 12 current or former world leaders, as well as 128 other politicians and public officials and even associates of Putin — the Russian leader, though he himself was not mentioned by name in any of the documents.
At least 18 high-profile Africans were mentioned in the somewhat biggest data leak exposing the financial activities of some of the world’s rich and famous and their use of tax havens.
For some – like Sudan’s former President Ahmad Ali al-Mirghani, ex-UN chief Kofi Annan’s son Kojo Annan or Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal – offshore companies were used to buy and sell pricey real estate in London.
The Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal has several shell companies registered in a notorious Caribbean tax haven famous for not paying tax, and having ties with drug business.
She used to be a key person or shareholder of four companies and was actively involved in two of them after she was appointed High Court judge.
Her husband, Mr Hasmukhrai Rawal, was a director or shareholder of seven other companies. Three were used to buy and sell property worth millions of shillings in the United Kingdom.
Her assets, declared when she was appointed, don’t in anyway reflect of these transactions amounting to quite an enormous amount.
Mounir Majidi, the king of Morocco’s personal secretary, used an offshore company to buy a luxury yacht in 2006 – a deal that Mr Majidi’s lawyers maintain is above board.
Other relevations are not so very clear. South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, is named as a representative of two offshore companies that acquired oil fields in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010.
Mossack Fonseca later decided to end its transaction with Mr Zuma’s companies after concerns were raised about the dealings. Khulubuse Zuma’s spokesman said that he has never held an offshore bank account, but declined to comment on his role in offshore companies.
Some of those named in the document have formerly been found guilty of money laundering activities and are serving time. Ex-governor of Nigeria’s Delta State, James Ibori, was found guilty of such activities in 2012. Four offshore companies belonging to Ibori are named in the Panama Papers – one of which was used to buy a $20m (£14m) private jet.
Prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, isn’t left out. The Panama papers show he has links, through his wife, to an offshore company that is still murky.
Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri is reported to have failed to mention connection to a company during his asset declarations. 29 billionaires featured in Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s 500 richest people and movie star Jackie Chan, who has at least six companies managed through the law firm.
The world’s best soccer player, Lionel Messi, is also found in the documents, ICIJ reports. The records show Messi and his father are the owners of a Mega Star Enterprises Inc. This adds a new name to the list of shell companies known to be linked to Messi.
His offshore dealings are currently the target of a tax evasion case in Spain. The revelation shows worldwide corruption, money laundry and tax evasion by world power players and deep pockets around the globe.
Though Mossack Fonseca publicly says it “conducts exhaustive due diligence to ensure the legality of its clients and it never work with political grafters, criminals or other shady characters…” the firm’s records show a different picture.
The analysis by ICIJ indicate, for instance, that Mossack Fonseca has worked with at least 33 companies and people blacklisted by U.S. government because of evidence that they’d been involved in wrongdoing, such as terrorism, human trafficking, drug dealers, corrupt politicians or people who aid rogue regimes such as North Korea or Iran.