In what is sure to be a global controversy, the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca was subject to a widespread data leak that implicated world leaders and prominent figures around the globe in fraudulent activity, as well as other illegal or unflattering endeavors with the company. According to The Guardian, an unknown source leaked the so-called “Panama Papers” to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, who promptly shared the information with BBC News and The Guardian.
This leak occurred on Sunday, April 3, and has already implicated Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as numerous other world leaders in evasive money dealings of questionable legality, according to BBC News and The Guardian. According to CBS News, the British Prime Minister David Cameron has issued several public statements about his overseas dealings with Mossack Fonseca as of April 10.
David Cameron and his wife had profited from working with the overseas company, seeming to avoid paying taxes, however the tax records they released that date back to 2009 seemingly show that they operated within the bounds of British law. Critics, however, were quick to point out that these records appear incomplete and omit certain information. David Cameron further apologized for the controversy and early failures to handle the scrutiny. “I could have handled this better,” Cameron said. “I know there are lessons to learn, and I will learn them. And don’t blame No. 10 Downing Street or nameless advisers. Blame me.”
In a further attempt to uncover the extent of alleged corruption, the El Salvadorian authorities launched a raid on the law firm on April 9, seizing computers and data in an attempt to compile more evidence that may show the powerful individuals implicated in an attempt to avoid paying taxes through offshore companies. The BBC reports that the El Salvadorian Attorney General Douglas Melendez sanctioned the raid on Mossack Fonseca branch in El Salvador in order to investigate the allegations that El Salvadorians used the firm to acquire property without declaring it to the government. It is unknown at this time whether this raid will yield more information confirming the leak, but BBC News reports that this office was in “back office” contact with clients all over the world.
The Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnluagsson, was the first leader of a country to step aside after the release of the Panama Papers, according to The Guardian. There have been mass protest outside of the capital city of Reykjavik, Iceland demanding the Prime Minister resign. He has not fully resigned. He says he is, according to The Guardian, “handing over the office of prime minister for an unspecified time” to the agriculture and fisheries minister of Iceland.
The United States, relatively unscathed by the Panama Papers, seeks to use the leak to their advantage. According to NBC News, the Federal authorities within the United States are “chomping at the bit” to use the Panama Papers to apprehend criminals. The 11 million documents outlining shell corporations and dealings with the world’s political and economic elites are a gold mine for federal and international authorities. According to a federal official who spoke with NBC News, the FBI, DHS, IRS, CIA, DEA and other agencies will be busy in the foreseeable future using the mountains of data to create or bolster cases against notorious individuals and agencies such as Hezbollah, cartels, organized crime, and foreign regimes. Though legality of the acquisition of information is an issue, the authorities are eager to explore the wealth of data presented to them.
Editor’s Note: Information from NBC News, BBC News, CBS News and The Guardian was used in this report.