While no standard official definition exists, The Economist and the International Monetary Fund describe an offshore financial center, or tax haven, as a jurisdiction whose banking infrastructure primarily provides services to people or businesses who do not live there, requires little or no disclosure of information when doing business, and offers low taxes.
On April 8, a few hours after the publication of a new series of articles focusing on art hidden behind offshore companies, a prosecutor sequestered a Modigliani worth some $25 million at Geneva Freeport. Litigation in New York alleged the painting had been stolen by Nazis during World War II; the defendants said they did not own it, but the leaked documents show that they control International Art Center, a shell company registered in Panama which does own it.
The balboa replaced the Colombian peso in 1904 after Panama's independence. Balboa banknotes were printed in 1941 by President Arnulfo Arias. They were recalled several days later, giving them the name "The Seven Day Dollars". The notes were burned by the new government, but occasionally balboa notes can be found in collections. These were the only banknotes ever issued by Panama and US notes have circulated both before and since.
The Christmas parade, known as El desfile de Navidad, is celebrated in the capital, Panama City. This holiday is celebrated on December 25. The floats in the parade are decorated in the Panamanian colors, and women wear dresses called pollera and men dress in traditional montuno. In addition, the marching band in the parade, consisting of drummers, keeps crowds entertained. In the city, a big Christmas tree is lit with Christmas lights, and everybody surrounds the tree and sings Christmas carols.
Reporters sorted the documents into a huge file structure containing a folder for each shell company, which held the associated emails, contracts, transcripts, and scanned documents Mossack Fonseca had generated while doing business with the company or administering it on a client's behalf. Some 4.8 million leaked files were emails, 3 million were database entries, 2.2 million PDFs, 1.2 million images, 320,000 text files, and 2242 files in other formats.
A diverse multicultural city of almost 1.3 million, Panama City offers a lot more than an up-close view of the Canal. Shantytowns slink up alongside shiny high-rise condos. The Old City is an atmospheric labyrinth of churches, plazas and palaces. Fifteen miles from downtown Panama City, Soberania National Park is an excellent destination for hiking and birding. For a fascinating look at the canal, take a taxi or local bus to Miraflores Locks Visitor Center and look down on the traffic below.
Petroleum Minister José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos had power of attorney for an offshore company in 2002, when he became petroleum minister after previously being employed for a number of years as an executive at Sonangol, according to the leaked documents. He denies wrongdoing. ICIJ partner Le Monde says it has seen documents that show he was the proxyholder for Medea Investments Limited, founded in Niue in 2001, and moved to Samoa five years later. The company, which issued only bearer bonds, had a capitalization of $1 million, and closed in 2009. He has never previously been accused of corruption.
You don't have to make it all the way to the Darién to get off the beaten path – though if you do, you've hit one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. Go where the wild things are. Soak in the spray of towering waterfalls near highland Santa Fé. Visit one of Panama's seven indigenous groups through community tourism. Live out your castaway fantasies in the Guna Yala or idle on a wilderness beach in Península de Azuero. Howl back at the creatures sharing the canopy. Panama is as wild as you want it to be.
To start this tour, you will follow the Panama Canal north to the town of Gamboa, where the Chagres River meets the canal. You will begin the wildlife viewing from a boat on the waters of the canal and Gatun Lake. You will ride along the waters of the Panama Canal right next to the ships passing through as well as have an up close view of the the abundant wildlife on its shores. You will visit the famous Monkey Islands where you will see capuchins, howlers, and tamarins. Once you finish with the canal and lake boat ride (around 90 minutes), you will head 45 minutes north to the Caribbean side of Panama. You will visit the Agua Clara Visitor Center to see the new expansion locks working up close. Located on the west side of the brand new Agua Clara Locks, the Agua Clara Visitor Center allows you to observe transiting vessels from a scenic lookout point and learn first hand about the various operations of the Panama Canal, the history of its construction, its participation in the world markets, and the importance of its watershed. An observational deck lets you watch the ships pass through the Agua Clara Locks on their way to the Pacific or Atlantic oceans. The next stop will be a visit to San Lorenzo National Park where you will visit a remote rainforest full of flora and fauna, followed by a freshly made picnic lunch and a tour Fort San Lorenzo. A 400 year old Spanish fort on a scenic cliff overlooking the Caribbean, here you will recount the many attacks by pirates and privateers that happened at one of the most historically important places in Panama. The Fort of San Lorenzo, located on an 80 foot (25m) cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea at the estuary of the Chagres River, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with the fortifications of the city of Portobelo. It was part of the defensive system for the transatlantic trade of the Spanish Crown, and is a fine example of military architecture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Fort of San Lorenzo is one of the oldest fortresses in Spanish America. Here you will recount the many attacks by pirates and privateers that happened at one of the most historically important places in Panama. Once you finish the tour of the fort, you will return to Panama City for hotel drop off.
Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, elected after the 2008 banking collapse in Iceland, had pledged to clean up corruption in the banking system. But when Sigmundur Davíð took his seat he did not disclose his 50% interest of Wintris, a company that owned bonds of one of the bankrupt banks, nor divest himself of it, until the day before a new law took effect on January 1, 2010 that would have required him to declare this conflict of interest. He sold his share to his wife, who owns the other half. The couple both come from wealthy families. When they bought Wintris he was working as a journalist and she is an anthropologist. Until his failure to disclose the asset, he apparently broke no laws. But the country remembers the 2008 financial crisis all too well and thought it had put it in the past. Since Sigmundur Davíð negotiated on behalf of Iceland with creditors of failed Icelandic banks, the discovery that Sigmundur Davíð's wife is a bondholder caused so much outrage that 22,000–24,000 people attended an anti-government protest outside the parliament on April 4, 2016, almost 8% of the population. Sigmundur Davíð suggested a snap election, but the other members of the coalition government did not want elections, just his resignation. On April 5, 2016, Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson announced his resignation.
Money-laundering affects the first world as well, since a favored shell company investment is real estate in Europe and North America. London, Miami, New York, Paris, Vancouver and San Francisco have all been affected. The practice of parking assets in luxury real estate has been frequently cited as fueling skyrocketing housing prices in Miami, where the Miami Association of Realtors said that cash sales accounted for 90% of new home sales in 2015. "There is a huge amount of dirty money flowing into Miami that's disguised as investment," according to former congressional investigator Jack Blum. In Miami, 76% of condo owners pay cash, a practice considered a red flag for money-laundering.
Three Mossack Fonseca companies started for clients of Helene Mathieu Legal Consultants were later sanctioned by the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Pangates International Corporation was accused in July 2014 of supplying the government of Syria with "a large amount of specialty petroleum products" with "limited civilian application in Syria". The other two, Maxima Middle East Trading and Morgan Additives Manufacturing Co, and their owners Wael Abdulkarim and Ahmad Barqawi, were said to have "engaged in deceptive measures" to supply oil products to Syria.
On April 7, 2016, the Anti Corruption Commission Bangladesh launched an inquiry to obtain details of the businesses and individuals allegedly affiliated with Mossack Fonseca. Allegations have been made against thirty-two Bangladeshi individuals and two corporations, however, media outlets staking this claim have referenced an old ICIJ database of information compiled during the investigation of the 2013 Offshore Leaks.
Canadians for Tax Fairness had calculated that legal tax avoidance by corporations alone cost the Canadian treasury almost $8 billion Canadian a year. When it calculated the 2015 numbers, they found that corporations and individuals combined sent CAN$40 billion of declared assets to tax havens, and the ten most popular alone now held $270 billion Canadian in assets.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance of Panama, Dulcidio de la Guardia, formerly an offshore specialist at Mossack Fonseca competitor Morgan & Morgan, said the legal but often "murky" niche of establishing offshore accounts, firms and trusts make up "less than half a percentage point" of Panama's GDP. He appeared to suggest that publication of the papers was an attack on Panama because of the high level of economic growth that the country had shown.
The publisher concludes that: "Taiwanese companies and individuals are believed to be extensively using offshore shelters to avoid or evade taxes ... after scouring the Panama Papers documents that Mossack Fonseca has not been one of their main conduits. This time, it appears that big Taiwanese banks, law firms and accounting firms did not often use the services of Mossack Fonseca, which does not have a presence in Taiwan. The forty-six Taiwanese brokers that did work with Mossack Fonseca were relatively small-scale consulting firms operating in Greater China. Most of the Taiwanese entities that set up shell companies through the Panamanian law firm were small, unlisted companies or individuals."
The firm won’t discuss specific cases of alleged wrongdoing, citing client confidentiality. But it robustly defends its conduct. Mossack Fonseca says it complies with anti-money-laundering laws and carries out thorough due diligence on all its clients. It says it regrets any misuse of its services and tries actively to prevent it. The firm says it cannot be blamed for failings by intermediaries, who include banks, law firms and accountants.
The longest highway in the world, the Pan-American Highway is 19,000 miles stretching from Alaska to Panama. The highway is interrupted in Panama in the province of the Darien Gap by 100 miles of swampland and thick forested jungles which is home to indigenous tribes. The highway continues on the Colombia side for another 11,000 miles ending in Ushuaia, Argentina.
Former French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac, who spearheaded a crackdown on tax fraud while in office, was a client of Mossack Fonseca and through them owned a Seychelles company named Cerman Group Limited, incorporated in 2009. When France investigated 2013 allegations by Mediapart that in 2000 Cahuzac had held undeclared assets in an account first in Switzerland, then Singapore, he resigned his cabinet post, protesting his innocence, but admitted a few months later that he indeed had hidden €600,000 in a UBS account and then moved it to keep it hidden, "while continuing to lead France's clampdown on tax evasion". The French Socialist Party unanimously voted to expel him a week later. On the heels of the April 2013 "Cahuzac affair", President Hollande created the parquet national financier (PNF), a judiciary investigation unit specializing in large-scale fraud and corruption investigations.
An example of undisturbed, unique culture in Panama is that of the Guna who are known for molas. Mola is the Guna word for blouse, but the term mola has come to mean the elaborate embroidered panels made by Guna women, that make up the front and back of a Guna woman's blouse. They are several layers of cloth, varying in color, that are loosely stitched together, made using a reverse appliqué process.
New Zealand's Inland Revenue Department said that they were working to obtain details of people who have tax residence in the country who may have been involved in arrangements facilitated by Mossack Fonseca. Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, told Radio New Zealand on April 8, 2016 that New Zealand is a well-known tax haven and a "nice front for criminals". New Zealand provides overseas investors with foreign trusts and look-through companies. New Zealand government policy is to not request disclosure of the identity of either the settlor or the beneficiaries of the trust, and thus the ownership remains secret, and as a consequence, thus hiding the assets from the trust-holder's home jurisdictions. These trusts are not taxed in New Zealand. These trusts can then be used to acquire and own New Zealand registered companies, which become a vehicle by which the trust owners can exercise day to day control over their assets. These New Zealand-registered companies can be designed not to make a profit using loans from tax havens and other profit shifting techniques: the result being tax free income with the general respectability that has typically been associated with companies registered in New Zealand.
Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, called the leak "probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents". Edward Snowden described the release in a Twitter message as the "biggest leak in the history of data journalism". The ICIJ also said that the leak was "likely to be one of the most explosive [leaks of inside information in history] in the nature of its revelations".
It’s time to wave farewell to Panama City and get out into nature! Breathe in the fresh air of parks, islands, rainforests, and rural villages. This Panama City jungle tour will turn its back on bustling city life and welcome the rainforest in with open arms – come along for the ride!You’ll be picked up from the American Trade Hotel in the historic district, and the first part of this Panama City wildlife tour will take you past Panama Canal’s famous Culebra Cut and towards Soberania National Park, Lake Gatun, and the Chagres River.Known for its huge variety of birds (the Audubon Society's annual bird count once spotted over 500 species in 24 hours!), Soberania National Park is full of wildlife and is a wonderful place to watch for monkeys, sloths, eagles, and plenty more. There’s no denying that this spot in the Panama jungle really is the jackpot for animal lovers. You’ll also catch a boat out to Monkey Island – doesn’t take a genius to guess what you’ll find here! Keep your eyes peeled to spot a number of different species of monkey.Next, you will continue your tour up the Chagres River to an authentic Indian village. This will be an opportunity for you to get in touch with the local community, and learn all about their culture, customs, history, and more. As part of the visit, you’ll take a short hike along the trails through the rainforest to learn about how the local plants are used for medicinal purposes. With your local guide by your side through this adventure, you’ll learn plenty about the culture around you.After your Panama jungle experience of a life time, you’ll head back into the city (perhaps a little begrudgingly…) where your local guide will drop you back off at the American Trade Hotel. During the rainy season in Panama, we are unable to reach the Indian Village for the Panama City Jungle Experience. However, we can offer travelers a nice walk in the jungle as a substitute. This alternate option will be effective from early October to late December.
Also in 2005, Zacharias (Zacky) Nujoma, youngest son of Sam Nujoma, set up two holding companies, Avila Investments and Marbella Investments, and licensed them to buy and cut diamonds. Shortly afterwards 90% of the stock was transferred to Diamond Ocean. In 2006 Nujoma established Ancash Investments, which obtained seven exclusive uranium prospecting licenses. Palazzolo loaned the company US$10 million. Canadian mining company announced it would partner with Ancash in its uranium contracts and said it based its decision in part on Ancash's strong international support in Natural Earth International Ltd. of Hong Kong. Natural Earth is another Deutsche Investment company.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder and long-time leader of the far-right-wing Front National (FN) and now a member of the European Parliament, already was the subject, along with his daughter Marine Le Pen and his staff, of a PNF tax fraud investigation. Drawing official scrutiny were an undeclared HSBC account containing €2.2m in gold and coins, managed from Geneva by an aide through a trust based in the British Virgin Islands which was closed and then moved to the Bahamas in 2014; allegations of overbilling; misuse and comingling of campaign funds; and tax evasion. Jean-Marie Le Pen is also suspected of using his European Parliament funds for the campaign and administrative expenses of his French political party. Jean-Marie Le Pen is mentioned in the documents, along with his daughter Marine Le Pen, who is the current party leader, and Frederic Chatillon, an FN insider who is also a close friend of Marine. Among the three of them, they may have hidden as much as a million pounds in offshore accounts.
On October 22, 2016, in the midst of a state visit to Germany, Varela told journalist Jenny Pérez, of Deutsche Welle that there had been "progress" in transparency and many agreements to exchange tax information, and that tax evasion was a global problem. Asked about his ties with Ramón Fonseca Mora, managing partner of the firm Mossack Fonseca, he acknowledged that he is a friend.
Guinean President Alpha Condé launched an investigation after he was elected in 2010. Separately, so did the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US justice department, suspecting violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In August 2014 Mossack Fonseca received a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) notice from the US government inquiring into ownership of Pentler and two other BSGR companies administered by Mossack Fonseca's Geneva office. However, the president of Pentler's financial management firm, Menachem Eitan, was a fugitive from the US SEC facing charges over a $55 million Ponzi scheme.