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The Panama Papers, in 300 words or less

Approx Reading Time-10The Panama Papers. A historic leak, sure. But beyond the headlines, the issue gets murky. So we’ve cut through the rhetoric.


The Panama Papers is the name attached to the 2.6 terabyte leak of confidential documents owned by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. A slew of notable names are attached to the leak, such as Vladimir Putin, Chinese PM Xi Jinping and football ubermensch, Lionel Messi.

But beyond the headlines and the familiar names, the issue becomes rather murky indeed. So who are Mossack Fonseca? And are there any confirmed acts of wrongdoing beyond the assumptive norms of blame?

Mossack Fonseca is a firm that offers, among other things, to build “shell companies” for clients, allowing the buyer’s name (usually a notable person) to be obfuscated. This is also standard practice in the corporate world. A shell company allows you to operate with your business goals in mind, without wearing the business name.

While there is nothing illegal about using a firm such as this, the deniability and the lack of transparency cock the collective eyebrow. The stigma of offshore banking lives on, as the channel of unaccounted income continues to grow, with one economist estimating $7.6T worldwide (or eight percent of the global income).

On the home front, 800 Australians are set to be investigated by the ATO.


So, who is implicated?

As is the nature of the shell company, an absolute figurehead and charted wrongdoing are hard to pin down.

Vladimir Putin, or rather people he knows through association, purportedly claim $2B in offshore accounts. That’s a murky maybe:

Conversely, the Icelandic PM, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, is in some rather hot political goo. The Panama Papers claim that he secretly owned the debt of the failed banks he was politically negotiating the outcome of.

He now faces a snap election.

The same goes for Ukrainian premier, Petro Poroshenko, who pledged to sell off his private business holdings during the election (he was the chocolate king of the Ukraine). The Panama Papers indicate that he shifted the money offshore.

The full list of political leaders and family members implicated can be found here.


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