By: Freddie Saunders, Student Voices writer
In recent weeks we have seen a massive story, again largely involving the off-shore financial industry, regarding 11.5 million data files which have been leaked, and are causing absolute havoc for politicians, businesses and elite figures throughout the world.
Where did this begin?
It began with the fourth largest provider of offshore services, known as Mossack Fonseca, located in Panama, leaking 11.5 million data files. The provider states that in the 40 years they have been operating they have not received a single criminal conviction.
The 2,600 gigabytes of data was retrieved by Süddeutsche Zeitung, who then released them to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), who are an institution which take pride into investigating controversial matters, especially ones, which according to their mission statement is: “to reveal abuses of power, corruption and dereliction of duty by powerful public and private institutions in order to cause them to operate with honesty, integrity, accountability and to put the public interests first”.
ICIJ then took the initiative to work with over 70 journalist and media organisations worldwide, including the infamous Guardian and BBC from the United Kingdom, to aid in analysing and breaking down the mass amounts of data and files, which has brought a range of things to light, across a broad spectrum.
What has it revealed?
The 11.5 million files have identified how the largely rich and elite can exploit methods and techniques to avoid tax or pay very little of it. To date, there are 12 national leaders who are involved, including the recent Icelandic Prime Minister who was forced to stand down, due to the Panama Papers revealing that the PM, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson and his wife owned an offshore company but did not declare it when entering Parliament.
It has also been unveiled that Vladimir Putin is part of a serious money scheme, where a $2 billion money trail has lead straight back to the Kremlin. Other media outlets have indicated that Putin’s childhood friend, Sergei Roldugin, a Cellist, has been aiding Russian State banks hide money in the vastly complicated offshore finance environment. There have even been reports that the trail involves a Ski resort, which is the exact resort that Putin’s daughter got married at back in 2013.
Below is the current list of national leaders which have been exposed as having money also hidden in the offshore financing rings and institutions:
- Nawaz Sharif – Pakistan’s Prime Minister
- Ayad Allawi – Previous Interim Prime Minister and Former Vice-President of Iraq
- Petro Poroshenko – President of Ukraine
- Alaa Mubarak – Son of Egypt’s Former President
- Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson – Icelandic Prime Minister
There have also been reports of Ian Donald Cameron, father of David Cameron the British Prime Minister, as being guilty of setting up an investment fund located offshore, there has also been speculation that key supporters of David Cameron throughout his career, have also been making use of tax havens.
Where is the money being hidden?
In the Caribbean area, the most popular locations, according to the Guardian are:
- British Virgin Islands
- In the African continent, the most popular location is Seychelles.
- Finally, in the Oceanic regions, the most popular locations are:
Where are the middle-men located?
Mossack Fonseca declared that the majority of the time they did not work directly with clients, in terms of owners, but instead intermediaries, including: accountants, lawyers, banks and trust companies. Below shows the most popular countries, in terms of where these middle entities are located:
In the American regions, the most popular countries where these entities are located are:
- United States of America
- Within the European continent, the entities are located in:
- United Kingdom
In the Middle East, the most popular location for intermediaries is within the United Arab Emirates, and within Asia, the most dominant location being Hong Kong, followed by China.
What does this mean?
This means this is the biggest leak in history in terms of exposing massive figures in the celebrity, political and elite sphere. Not only are 143 politicians involved, 12 heads of state and families related to these individuals, the newly elected FIFA President, has been linked with a deal from 2006, which involved two men who are currently trying to be extradited by the US from Argentina.. To add to this, massive stars such as: Simon Cowell, Chelsea superstar Willian, film director Stanley Kubrick, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, the ‘respected’ actor Jackie Chan, film director Pedro Almodóvar, Golfer Sir Nick Faldo, Chess Grandmaster Bobby Fischer, Princess Diana’s Former Butler Paul Burrell, Ex-Wife of Sir Paul McCartney Heather Mills, the Iron Lady’s son Sir Mark Thatcher and former Professional Footballer Andy Cole have also been exposed in these leaks.
I think the Guardian are doing a formidable job in digging into the 2.6 terabytes of data and information, unveiling the unethical acts of key figures in society, and I repeat unethical, as the majority of the acts revealed are legal but definitely unethical and is definitely going to create a dent in these individuals public image and reduce their moral high ground.
For the rest of the year, or at least the next few months I believe that the ICIJ and the organisations they are working with are just beginning, and there is an extensive period to proceed, in terms of investigation and questioning of certain facts, figures, decisions and events. The media is often slated for exaggerating a range of stories and scenarios, but the Panama Papers and the investigation into them by the media is a key example of where the media does justice for the world, in terms of not letting the elite get away unscathed after conducting unethical and illegal actions.
Justice of the Panama Papers – A Full Breakdown Reviewed by Student Voices on 10:10 Rating: