A long and thoroughÂ investigation carried out byÂ global journalists has unveiled a whole shady network of rich and powerful leaders use offshore tax havens to hide their vast wealth,Â launder money, dodge sanctions and evade taxesÂ despite legal requirements in place that should prevent exactly those things from occurring.
Dubbed the Panama Papers,Â a cache ofÂ 11 millionÂ internalÂ documents from Panamanian law firmÂ Mossack Fonseca contained terabytes of documents regardingÂ 128 politicians and public officials, including 12 current and former world leaders.
The list of the peopleÂ indicated in the “Panama Papers” includesÂ close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Iceland’s prime minister,Â as well as Barcelona football starÂ Lionel Messi.
Several countries have already reacted to the scandalous leak, launching numerous tax evasion probes. Thus,Â Australia has already launched a probe into 800 wealthy Mossack Fonseca clients.
France and the Netherlands also voiced their decision to find the truth by thorough investigation, while a judicial source said Spain had opened a money-laundering investigation into the law firm.
The Kremlin, Â meanhile, suggested a US plot after the leaks put a close friend ofÂ the head of stateÂ at the top of an offshore empire worth more than $2 billion.
“Putin, Russia, our country, our stability and the upcoming elections are the main target, specifically to destabilise the situation,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, claiming the journalists were former officers from the US state department, the CIA and special services.
âWe have received some excessivelyÂ rich requests that were more like questions at an interrogation,â Peskov added. âHere we see no intent to conduct objective investigations, we see just an intention to publish a hatchet job.â
TheÂ Mossack FonsecaÂ documents were first leaked to German newspaper SĂźddeutsche Zeitung more than a year ago. Investigative journalists in countries around the word have been sifting through them ever since.
“The source wanted neither financial compensation nor anything else in return, apart from a few security measures,”Â SĂźddeutsche ZeitungÂ said of its confidential source.
The newspaper shared the documents with the International Consortium ofÂ Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which, in their turn, launched a global reporting effort involving 107 media organizations in 78 countries.
Mossack FonsecaÂ company said: “For 40 years Mossack Fonseca has operated beyond reproach in our home country and in other jurisdictions where we have operations. Our firm has never been accused or charged in connection with criminal wrongdoing.”
“If we detect suspicious activity or misconduct, we are quick to report it to the authorities. Similarly, when authorities approach us with evidence of possible misconduct, we always cooperate fully with them.”