Washington: A massive leak of documents has blown open a window on the vast, murky world of shell companies, providing an extraordinary look at how the wealthy and powerful conceal their money.
Twelve current and former world leaders maintain offshore shell companies. Close friends of Russian leader Vladimir Putin have funneled as much as $US2 billion through banks and offshore companies.
Those exposed in the leak include the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, an alleged bagman for Syrian President Bashar Assad, a close friend of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and companies linked to the family of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Add to those the monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Morocco; Middle Eastern royalty; leaders of FIFA, the international body that controls international soccer; and 29 billionaires included in Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s 500 richest people.
Also mentioned are 61 relatives and associates of current country leaders, and 128 current or former politicians and public officials.
The leak exposes a trail of dark money flowing through the global financial system, stripping national treasuries of tax revenue.
The data breach occurred at a little-known but powerful Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca & Co., which has an office in Las Vegas, a representative in Miami and presence in more than 35 other places around the world.
The firm is one of the world’s top five creators of shell companies, which can have legitimate business uses but can also be used to dodge taxes and launder money.
More than 11.5 million emails, financial spreadsheets, client records, passports and corporate registries were obtained in the leak, which was delivered to the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in Munich, Germany. In turn, the newspaper shared the data with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. More