Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah have been implicated in the Panama Papers scandal, one of the largest document leaks in history.
According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) — which, along with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other outlets, conducted a yearlong investigation — the files expose “at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the US government because of evidence that they’d been involved in wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.”
In addition, one of the blacklisted companies was charged by US authorities with having “supplied fuel for the aircraft that the Syrian government used to bomb and kill thousands of its own citizens.”
The leak of 11.5 million tax documents outlining the confidential dealings of Panamanian offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca has brought to light the dark side of tax havens and offshore tax laws. Initial public findings of the ICIJ investigation reveal how several companies utilized tax havens to launder money, avoid taxes and finance arms and drug deals.
The investigation also exposed the hidden assets and financial dealings of some 140 political leaders, including 12 former and current heads of state. Russian President Vladimir Putin, ICIJ investigators concluded, “secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies.” The Kremlin dismissed reports of any misconduct by the president on Monday, accusing the US of “Putinophobia” as a means to discredit the Russian leader.
Iceland’s prime minister, Sigmunder David Gunnlaugsson, and his wife “secretly owned an offshore firm that held millions of dollars in Icelandic bank bonds during that country’s financial crisis,” the ICIJ said. The families and associates of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are all linked to offshore companies set up by Mossack Fonseca.
“The cache of 11.5 million records shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars,” the ICIJ said.
Data gathered from the documents contained information on 214,488 offshore entities with connections to more than 200 countries and territories, spanning from the 1970s to the end of 2015. Mossack Fonseca denies any claims of wrongdoing and says it has been a victim of data theft. “The facts are these: while we may have been the victim of a data breach, nothing we’ve seen in this illegally obtained cache of documents suggests we’ve done anything illegal,” the firm said in a statement.
Tax authorities in several countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have launched investigations into “over 800 individual taxpayers” involvement in the scandal, Reuters reported.