#PanamaPapers |The full list of companies and people linked to them will release in early May

Design Sourse: http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/articles/56febff0a1bb8d3c3495adf4/


It is like the world is blind to things that are right in front of its nose. We don’t need to tell anyone the joke about the giant companies putting money away in offshore banks. Far away from the tax inspection. Yet for the first time, there is proof of kings and presidents putting away your money. Not only them, but also the shop around the corner.

2016-02-15 15-31-20 Ekran görüntüsü
İstanbul
By Laurens Bammens*

Sometimes it’s good to be a journalist. German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung was handed 11 million documents that showed Panama based law firm Mossack Fonseca helped clients with creating offshore shelters.

In total, all the documents were about 2.6 terabytes (approx. 2 600 gigabyte) worth of data. That is more than all the previous ICIJ projects combined; Wikileaks, Offshore Leaks, Luxleaks and Swissleaks.

Famous people whom are mentioned in the documents are Lionel Messi, Jackie Chan, Russian president Putin and his entourage, the prime minister of Iceland, the king of Saudi-Arabia and the presidents of Ukraine and Argentina.

According to the articles, this is just the tip of the iceberg. About 100 Turkish companies are listed, but they are not made public.

In May the International Consortium for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) will publish lists with offenders from every country.

Scarface

The thing about offshores is that we all knew about it. It’s been featured in films and often told as a joke. Yet it takes a whistle-blower to show us the scope of the problem.

Putting your money in an offshore account of course is not illegal. At least not as long the money itself is not illegal.

Then you have to tell the treasury and you need a local overseer. Though one can see the potential for laundering money, illegal transactions or bribes.

Exactly because of that, some of the offshore savings have been made illegal by some countries. Certain countries just were too risky for governments to let people store their money.

Panama was not one of those countries though. Law firm Mossack Fonseca became specialised in setting up offshore tax constructions, mostly in the British Virgin Isles.

They provided facts and figures, cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and people, and basically a kind of deep worldwide web of money.

Their goal was to keep the identity of the true business owners concealed. For just $1000, one could set up an anonymous company. Mossack Fonseca would provide a CEO.

As any kind of deep or dark web, it is used for dark things, much darker than some bribery. According to a video by the ICIJ, Russian businessmen kidnapped orphaned teenage girls as young as 13. They were raped and sold. The leader of this paedophilia ring was a client of Mossack Fonseca.

Once the law firm found out their client was a paedophile, they did not think they should tell anyone about his business activities, the authorities for example.

In Uganda, a company tried selling an oil field, but did not feel like paying the 400 million dollars in taxes. They paid Mossack Fonseca to help them do it.

By mere paper work of changing the address of the company, they succeeded. Uganda is a pretty bad country to live in.

400 million dollars for Uganda means more than the government spends on the annual health budget. In the meanwhile sick people in Uganda were sleeping on the floors of hospitals and asked to bring their own medical supplies.

A hospital without equipment quickly becomes an empty building.

Problem solver

It seems like Mossack Fonseca has a catalogue for every kind of problem a rich man could possibly have. The company has helped many men over the decades to hide their money for their wives just before a divorce. That way, the soon-to-be exes could never take a part of their assets.

It happened in Thailand, Russia, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and more countries. In Luxembourg, employees sent emoticons in an e-mail (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2782802-160403-divorce-01.html) discussing a Dutch man who wanted to hide his money from his wife.

Panama Papers after one day is already something which will create serious fallout. Treasury ministers have asked their cabinet to investigate in the files released by ICIJ.

Will this mean companies will stop offshore banking? Most likely not. A Belgian banker told Newsmonkey that it is not the first time these leaks get published.

And every time, people ask them to set up something similar. There is no such thing as bad publicity.


***Laurens Bammens, PXL Journalism student and he is Dağ Medya Intern during the 15 February – 3 June 2016


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