Clients can buy an anonymous company for as little as usd 1,000. However, at this price it is homework just an empty shell. For an extra fee, mossack fonseca provides a sham director and, if desired, conceals the companys true shareholder. The result is an offshore company whose true purpose and ownership structure is indecipherable from the outside. Mossack fonseca has founded, sold, and managed thousands of companies. The documents provide a detailed view of how Mossack fonseca routinely accepts to engage in business activities that potentially violate sanctions, in addition to aiding and abetting tax evasion and money laundering. Headquartered in Munich, süddeutsche zeitung (SZ) is one of Germanys leading newspapers. Sz has a total readership.4 million for its print and online media. Its investigative journalism team counts five people, three of which are members of the International Consortium of Investigative journalists (icij).
In turn, the proxies tracks then lead to heads of state, important officials, and millionaires. Over the course of the international project, journalists cooperated with one another to investigate thousands of leads: they examined evidence, studied contracts, and spoke with experts. Among others, mossack fonsecas clients include criminals and members of various Mafia groups. The documents also expose bribery scandals and corrupt heads of state and government. The alleged offshore companies of twelve current and former heads of state make up one of the most spectacular parts of the leak, as do the links to other leaders, and to their families, closest advisors, and friends. The panamanian law firm also counts almost 200 other politicians from around you the globe among its clients, including a number of ministers. The company, the company at the center of all these stories is Mossack fonseca, a panamanian provider of offshore companies with dozens of offices all over the world. It sells its shell firms in cities such as Zurich, london, and Hong Kong in some instances at bargain prices.
The research, for each name found, a detailed research process was initiated that posed the following questions: what is this persons role in the network of companies? Where does the money come from? Where is it going? Is this structure legal? Generally speaking, owning an offshore company is not illegal in itself. In fact, establishing an offshore company can be seen as a logical step for a broad range of business transactions. However, a look through the panama papers very quickly reveals that concealing the identities of the true company owners was the primary aim in the vast majority of cases. From the outset, the journalists had their work cut out for them. The providers of offshore companies among them banks, lawyers, and investment advisors often keep their clients names secret and use proxies.
Panama, papers : The Shady world of Offshore companies
In some instances, there are several thousand pages of documentation. First, the data had essay to be systematically indexed to make searching through this sea of information possible. To this end, the, süddeutsche zeitung used, nuix, the same program that international investigators work with. Süddeutsche zeitung and icij uploaded millions of documents onto high-performance computers. They applied optical character recognition (OCR) to transform data into machine-readable and easy to search files. The process turned images such as scanned IDs and signed contracts into searchable text.
This was an important step: it enabled journalists to comb through as large a portion of the leak as possible using a simple search mask similar to google. The journalists compiled maker lists of important politicians, international criminals, and well-known professional athletes, among others. The digital processing made it possible to then search the leak for the names on these lists. The "party donations scandal" list contained 130 names, and the un sanctions list more than 600. In just a few minutes, the powerful search algorithm compared the lists with the.5 million documents.
Sonntagszeitung and the austrian weekly, falter have also worked on the project, as have their colleagues at orf, austrias national public broadcaster. The international team initially met in Washington, munich, lillehammer and London to map out the research approach. Making of, the data. The panama papers include approximately.5 million documents more than the combined total of the wikileaks Cablegate, offshore leaks, lux leaks, and Swiss leaks. The data primarily comprises e-mails, pdf files, photo files, and excerpts of an internal Mossack fonseca database.
It covers a period spanning from the 1970s to the spring of 2016. Moreover, the journalists crosschecked a large number of documents, including passport copies. About two years ago, a whistleblower had already sold internal Mossack fonseca data to the german authorities, but the dataset was much older and smaller in scope: while it addressed a few hundred offshore companies, the panama papers provide data on some 214,000 companies. In the wake of the data purchase, last year investigators searched the homes and offices of about 100 people. The commerzbank was also raided. As a consequence of their business dealings with Mossack fonseca, commerzbank, hsh nordbank, and Hypovereinsbank agreed to pay fines of around 20 million euros, respectively. Since then, other countries have also acquired data from the initial smaller leak, among them the United States, the uk, and Iceland. The system, the leaked data is structured as follows: Mossack fonseca created a folder for each shell firm. Each folder contains e-mails, contracts, transcripts, and scanned documents.
Panama, papers, leak: Affected countries Map
A group effort, the, süddeutsche zeitung decided to analyze the mom data in cooperation with the. International Consortium of Investigative journalists (icij). Icij had already coordinated the research for past projects that sz was also involved in, among them Offshore leaks, lux leaks, and Swiss leaks. Panama papers is the biggest-ever international cooperation of its kind. 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. These have included teams from the. Guardian and the bbc in England, le mom monde in France, and, la nación in Argentina. In Germany, sz journalists have cooperated with their colleagues from two public broadcasters, ndr and wdr. Journalists from the Swiss.
Over a essay year ago, an anonymous source contacted the. Süddeutsche zeitung (SZ) and submitted encrypted internal documents from Mossack fonseca, a panamanian law firm that sells anonymous offshore companies around the world. These shell companies enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady. In the months that followed, the number of documents continued to grow far beyond the original leak. Ultimately, sz acquired about.6 terabytes of data, making the leak the biggest that journalists had ever worked with. The source wanted neither financial compensation nor anything else in return, apart from a few security measures. The data provides rare insights into a world that can only exist in the shadows. It proves how a global industry led by major banks, legal firms, and asset management companies secretly manages the estates of the worlds rich and famous: from politicians, fifa officials, fraudsters and drug smugglers, to celebrities and professional athletes.
fonseca. As ancir started researching, it discovered data disclosing 40 years of service from Mossack fonseca stretching from Uganda to namibia to sierra leone. The companys questionable dealings is already well known after being exposed by investigative journalists such as Ken Silverstein. Ancir and its media partners investigations led to findings around Ugandas missing taxes from oil revenue; a mega-infrastructure deal in Namibia connected to a fifa-related entity; secrecy in Steinmetzs diamond empire; and hidden players in Angolas sovereign wealth Fund, to mention a few. Further explosive stories from Zimbabwe, kenya, south Africa and Nigeria will follow this week. But the data revealed something far more insidious than a willingness to look past illegal activities. It reflects a deliberate design on the part of companies like mossack fonseca to commercialise the inherent weaknesses of national and international legal and financial regimes by bulldozing the substance, process and purpose of due diligence. Thanks to these structures banking secrecy, opaque shell entities, use of nominees to conceal beneficial owners etc - each year, the continent loses some 150 billion to illicit financial flows (pdf read the stories).
Icijs data and research unit indexed, organized and analyzed the.6 terabytes of data that make up the leak, using collaborative platforms to communicate and share documents with journalists working in 25 languages in nearly 80 countries. The secret files: Include.5 million records, dating back nearly 40 years making it the largest leak in offshore history. Contain details on more than 214,000 offshore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories. Show company owners in billionaires, sports stars, drug smugglers and fraudsters. Reveal the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials around the world including 12 current and former world leaders. Among them: the prime ministers of Iceland and pakistan, the president of Ukraine, and the king of saudi Arabia. Document some 2 billion in transactions secretly shuffled through banks and shadow companies by associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Include the names of at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the. Authorities for doing business with drug traffickers, terror groups and/or wood rogue nations like north Korea and Iran.
Panama, papers probe update
The panama papers is an unprecedented investigation that reveals the offshore links of some of the globes most prominent figures. The International Consortium of Investigative journalists (icij together with the german newspaper. Suddeutsche zeitung and more than 100 other media partners, including the African Network of Centers for Investigative reporting (ancir spent a year sifting through.5 million leaked files to expose the offshore holdings of world political leaders, links to global scandals, and details of the. The trove short of documents is likely the biggest leak of inside information in history. It includes nearly 40 years of data from a little-known but powerful law firm based in Panama. That firm, mossack fonseca, has offices in more than 35 locations around the globe, and is one of the worlds top creators of shell companies, the corporate structures that can be used to hide ownership of assets. The data includes emails, financial spreadsheets, passports and corporate records revealing the secret owners of bank accounts and companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions, including nevada, hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.