The Panama Papers are 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities. The documents, some dating back to the 1970s, were created by, and taken from, Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, and were leaked in 2015 by an anonymous source.
The documents contain personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private. While offshore business entities are legal (see Offshore Magic Circle), reporters found that some of the Mossack Fonseca shell corporations were used for illegal purposes, including fraud, tax evasion, and evading international sanctions.
Former President Ahmed al-Mirghani surfaced as a client of Mossack Fonseca. Al-Mirghani, who was president from 1986 to 1989, created Orange Star Corporation in the British Virgin Islands through the Panama firm in 1995, when he was living in Egypt after the coup that ended his presidency. He was active in the Democratic Unionist Party there. Orange Star Corporation bought a long-term lease in a tony London neighborhood near Hyde Park for $600,000 the same year al-Mirghani created it, and at the time of his death held assets worth $2.72 million.
The city proper has approximately 880,691 inhabitants in 23 boroughs. The inhabitants of Panama City are commonly referred to as capitalinos and include large numbers of Afro-Panamanians, mestizos, and mulattos, with notable white and Asian minorities. There is a great deal of cultural diversity within the city, which manifests itself in the wide variety of languages commonly spoken, such as German, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew and English, in addition to Spanish.
The terminal ports located at each end of the Panama Canal, namely the Port of Cristóbal, Colón and the Port of Balboa, are ranked second and third respectively in Latin America in terms of numbers of containers units (TEU) handled. The Port of Balboa covers 182 hectares and contains four berths for containers and two multi-purpose berths. In total, the berths are over 2,400 metres (7,900 feet) long with alongside depth of 15 metres (49 feet). The Port of Balboa has 18 super post-Panamax and Panamax quay cranes and 44 gantry cranes. The Port of Balboa also contains 2,100 square metres (23,000 square feet) of warehouse space.
Initially, only select names of politicians, public officials, businessmen, and others involved were revealed. One of the immediate consequences of the revelations was the April 4, 2016, resignation of Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. On May 9, all of the 214,488 offshore entities named in the Panama Papers became searchable via a database on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Prominent politicians criticized the involvement of the Cameron family in the scandal; Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn urged an immediate independent investigation into the tax affairs of Cameron's family as well as tighter laws on UK tax avoidance. Opponents also called for Cameron's resignation after he admitted owning shares in Blairmore.
Panama, Vanuatu and Lebanon may find themselves on a list of uncooperative tax havens that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) re-activated in July 2016 at the request of G20 nations, warned Le Monde, a French newspaper that participated in the investigation. Those three countries followed none of the OECD's three broad guidelines for international banking cooperation:
Being from Argentina, I was interested in this documentary because our President was one of the many figures in Western politics mentioned in this scandal. However, as in the other cases mentioned on the movie, the movie barely makes a passing mention of the case and doesn't bother to explain it in detail. Instead of explaining, step by step, how the process of setting up an offshore company works, exactly what each politician mentioned was involved in, and what the evidence against them was (which could have helped bring transparency into this important issue), the movie wastes time (more than an hour to be precise) talking about the journalists involved, how their investigation took place, and describing their collaborative international process in combing through the evidence, in what feels like a self-congratulatory exercise. While in itself interesting, I believe me and most of the audience were more interested in the actual contents of the Panama Papers itself and not on the journalistic process which made it happen. The documentary, in my opinion, gives an undue weight on this aspect of the story. The second part, on which the arrests made in Panama are described, is more interesting, but this extends for only 20 minutes, before we are back to the journalistic side of the story again.
Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma, has links in the documents to an offshore company with oil interests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has denied any wrongdoing. According to leaked documents President Zuma also has ties to an oil mining deal between a British Virgin Islands-based oil company, Caprikat Limited, and Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and helped Caprikat obtain oil fields in the DRC then sent his nephew to the DRC to run the firm.
"The most obvious use of offshore financial centers is to avoid taxes", The Economist added. Oxfam blamed tax havens in its 2016 annual report on income inequality for much of the widening gap between rich and poor. "Tax havens are at the core of a global system that allows large corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, "depriving governments, rich and poor, of the resources they need to provide vital public services and tackle rising inequality."
Nawaz Sharif was the second top official to be ruled out as the result of information disclosures in the Panama Papers. Supreme Court disqualified him from office. One judge said that Mr Sharif was no longer "eligible to be an honest member of the parliament". Pakistan's ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), was permitted by the speaker of the National Assembly to select an interim prime minister until the 2018 general election. The Supreme Court verdict was announced in the context of heightened security in the capital. Over 3,000 armed police and members of the Pakistan Rangers paramilitary force were deployed around the Supreme Court. The verdict followed months of dramatic news coverage and social media debates, the divisions falling largely along party lines.
The Procuraduría de la Nación announced that it would investigate Mossack Fonseca and the Panama papers. On April 12, the newly formed Second Specialized Prosecutor against Organized Crime raided Mossack Fonseca and searched their Bella Vista office as part of the investigation initiated by the Panama Papers. The Attorney General's office issued a press release following the raid, which lasted 27 hours, stating that the purpose was "to obtain documents relevant to the information published in news articles that establishes the possible use of the law firm in illegal activities". The search ended without measures against the law firm, confirmed prosecutor Javier Caraballo of the Second Prosecutor Against Organized Crime.
Anti-corruption group Transparency International believes that the "creation of businesses while serving as president is a direct violation of the constitution". Also, journalists from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project believe that with the move Poroshenko committed two other illegalities, starting a new business while in office and failing afterwards to report it on his disclosure statements. Poroshenko denied any wrongdoing and a spokesman said the offshore company had no active assets and was a legitimate corporate restructure aimed at helping to sell Poroshenko's Roshen group. Analysts in Ukraine responded that the secretive way Poroshenko set up these accounts was certain to undermine trust in him, his party and Ukraine itself.