Media. The Panama Papers Massive leak reveals offshore accounts of world. See the list of jounalists around the world

LEAKING. An investigation published today by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and its media partners reveals the hidden workings of a secretive industry that banks and lawyers use to hide the financial holdings and dealings of powerful clients, including prime ministers, parliamentarians, plutocrats and criminals, according to a trove of leaked documents.

The files, known as the Panama Papers, expose the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies, according to the joint investigative project conducted by ICIJ, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations around the globe. ICIJ is the international arm of the Center for Public Integrity.

The files — which total more than 11.5 million documents — contain new details about major scandals ranging from England’s most infamous gold heist in 1983, an unfolding political money laundering affair in Brazil and bribery allegations currently convulsing FIFA, the body that rules international soccer and is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Most of the services the offshore industry provides can be used for legal purposes and by law-abiding customers. But the documents reveal that banks, law firms and other offshore players often fail to follow legal requirements to assure that clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption. The files show that these fixers and middlemen protect themselves and their clients by concealing suspect transactions. In some instances, they work to head off official investigations by backdating and destroying documents.

The documents include nearly 40 years of data from inside Mossack Fonseca, a little known but powerful law firm based in Panama with branches in Hong Kong, Miami, Zurich and 35 other cities worldwide. In the first of six articles posted today, ICIJ and its partners detail the the inner workings of the Mossack Fonseca firm, which is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies — corporate structures that can be used to hide ownership of assets.

Another article reveals a clandestine money network with ties to Putin that has shuffled at least $2 billion through banks and offshore companies linked to some of Putin’s closest allies. A third article details how the law firm of a FIFA ethics watchdog had created offshore accounts for three men indicted in the world soccer association’s corruption scandal. One of the men, a former FIFA vice president, has been charged by U.S. authorities with wire fraud and money laundering for his role in the alleged bribery conspiracy.

The documents provide details of Mossack Fonseca’s role in the hidden financial dealings of 140 politicians and public officials worldwide and  expose offshore companies controlled by the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the king of Saudi Arabia and the children of the president of Azerbaijan. They also include the names of at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the U.S. government because of evidence that they’d been involved in wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

The project — which included a team of more than 370 journalists from more than 70 countries — is believed to be the largest cross-border media collaboration ever undertaken. Journalists working in more than 25 languages dug into Mossack Fonseca’s inner affairs and traced the secret dealings of the law firm’s customers around the world. They shared information and hunted down leads generated by the leaked files using corporate filings, property records, financial disclosures, court documents and interviews with money laudering experts and law-enforcement officials.

The disclosures from the law firm’s leaked files dramatically expand on previous leaks of offshore records that ICIJ and its reporting partners have revealed in the past four years. 

About this project

The Panama Papers is an unprecedented investigation that reveals the offshore links of some of the globe’s most prominent figures.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, together with the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other media partners, spent a year sifting through 11.5 million leaked files to expose the offshore holdings of world political leaders, links to global scandals, and details of the hidden financial dealings of fraudsters, drug traffickers, billionaires, celebrities, sports stars and more.

The trove 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 world’s top creators of shell companies, corporate structures that can be used to hide ownership of assets.

ICIJ’s analysis of the leaked records revealed information on more than 214,000 offshore companies connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories.

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.

ICIJ’s data and research unit indexed, organized and analyzed the 2.6 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.

Special thanks go to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and Code for Africa.

The Team:

Project ManagersMarina Walker Guevara and Gerard Ryle

Data EditorMar Cabra

Research EditorEmilia Diaz-Struck

EditorsMichael HudsonMartha M. HamiltonGerard RyleMarina Walker Guevara and Tom Stites

Online EditorHamish Boland-Rudder

Data and Research UnitRigoberto CarvajalMatthew Caruana GaliziaCécile Schilis-Gallego and Miguel Fiandor Gutiérrez

ICIJ reportersWill Fitzgibbon, Jake Bernstein, Ryan ChittumMartha M. HamiltonMichael HudsonMarcos Garcia ReyAlexa Olesen and Delphine Reuter

Süddeutsche Zeitung reportersBastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier

Researcher: Mago Torres

Fact checkersRichard H.P. Sia and Peter Smith

Web design and developmentÁlvaro OrtizFernando Blat and Jorge Sanchafrom Populate

The Power Players interactiveKiln

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