• Julie Kitzer

'Panama Papers' Leak: How the Rich and Powerful Hide Money

This past Sunday, a leak of 11.5 million tax documents has exposed how the rich and powerful have been avoiding taxes and hiding their money. The documents are known as the "Panama Papers" and are the biggest whistleblower leak in history...and it has only just begun. Sources say more information and names involved will continue to come out, it's just going to take time.

The tax documents were leaked from Panamanian Law Firm Mossack Fonseca. The firm deals with offshore jurisdictions and wealth management and is the world's fourth largest law firm that deals with offshore services. The findings being reported are from a year-long investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations.

Photo courtesy of latimes.com

The leak includes 2.6 terabytes of data and news organizations around the world are working around the clock on uncovering this information. The news organizations responsible for bringing this to light are being coordinated by ICIJ. This is necessary because the director of the ICIJ said that all of this data is from 40 years of this company doing this research. The data includes about 4.8 million emails, 3 million database files and 2.1 million PDFs from Mossack Fonseca. To put it into perspective, this is around 2,000-times larger than the Wiki Leaks state department cables.

So far, news organizations say that these documents include many current and former world leaders such as the King of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister of Pakistan and Prime Minister of Iceland. There have also been accusations of the British Prime Minister David Cameron's father and associates linked to Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin responded to the Panama Papers leak saying that it is an attack on Putin and Russia in general. The papers have also made links to the president of China. Currently, China is censoring all information pertaining to the Panama Papers.

Photo courtesy of ibtimes.com

April 4, a day after the leak, Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson gave a statement saying, "I will not resign." This was met in response with a protest from the people of Iceland. Just today the people got what they were calling for: the Prime Minister's resignation.

More than 120 politicians and celebrities have been named, this includes millionaires and billionaires. But among the celebrities and world leaders there are also drug dealers, arms traders and human traffickers named in the papers.

The reason why many people care so much about this is because not only is it tax evasion, but it is also being seen as a way to clean up money that is associated with human trafficking and war crimes. One of the biggest examples of this is Syria which has had international sanctions against them. It has been revealed that they have been able to continually fund their war efforts thanks to these shell companies.

Photo courtesy of factcheckargentina.org

It was noted that there was a lack of Americans that have been named in the papers. Stefan Plöchinger, an editor at Süddeutsche Zeitung, responded to the speculations in a tweet on Monday saying, “Just wait for what is coming next.” Alluding to that, this is just the beginning and it is likely to hit closer to home in the near future.

@usf_encounter tweets: