The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists just published a huge database about how some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people hide their cash — dubbed the “Panama Papers.”
As of today, on Monday May 9, anyone in the world will be able to scour through the database of 200,000 companies, trusts, foundations, and funds incorporated in 21 tax havens to see where the world’s richest people squirrel away their wealth in order to pay as little tax as possible.
The findings of the so-called Panama Papers investigation were unveiled at the beginning of April.
Over 11 million documents held by the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca had been leaked to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. The paper shared the information with the ICIJ, which is made up of 107 media organisations in 78 countries.
The global news outlets examined 28,000 pages of documents, also revealing the full scale of the tax breaks won by 340 companies.
The details of the investigation have already claimed the scalp of Spain’s acting industry minister Jose Manuel Soria and Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson — each of whom stepped down because of activities exposed by the Panama Papers documents.
So the mass publication of hundreds of thousands never before seen documents could lead to another huge shakeup for authorities and communities if they are explosive as the initial findings.
“The impact of Panama Papers has been epic,” said the ICIJ in an emailed statement.
“The investigation has led to high profile resignations, including the prime minister of Iceland; triggered official inquiries in multiple countries; and put pressure on world leaders and other politicians, such as Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, to explain their connections to offshore companies. It sparked a new sense of urgency among lawmakers and regulators to close loopholes and make information about the owners of shell companies public.”
This week, the anonymous person behind the massive leak published a 1,800-word statement on the ICIJ website saying that “income equality” was his motive for publishing the sensitive tax information from law firm Mossack Fonseca and that he is offering to help authorities across the world make prosecutions in exchange for immunity.
Mossack Fonseca denies wrongdoing and says it is a victim of a hack.