A huge leak of confidential documents has revealed how the rich and famous exploit tax havens around the world to launder dirty money, avoid international financial sanctions, and evade tax.
The trove a 11.5m files from the powerful Panama-based offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca were leaked by an anonymous source to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with 107 news organisations in 78 countries, including the Guardian, the BBC, and Le Monde.
The leaks appear to show how Mossack Fonseca has helped clients, including 72 current and former heads of state, launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax. The documents relate to the day-to-day business operations of the company over the last four decades.
Mossack Fonseca denies any wrongdoing and says it has never been accused or charged with criminal wrongdoing in its 40 year history.
The law firm is one of the largest in a network that specialises in setting up offshore shell companies to protect the assets and identities of its clients, and its services are used by individuals and corporations around the globe. Large financial institutions including UBS and HSBC have set up thousands of shell companies for their clients with the help of Mossack Fonseca.
Details of those allegedly implicated in the scandal will be released in the coming weeks, but the first reports include allegations of the involvement of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Other documents include the names of members Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and the father of UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
Tax authorities in the UK, France, Australia, and New Zealand have already said that they have begun probes into the alleged tax evasion committed by those named in the leak.