'Panama Papers': World leaders, politicians, celebrities hide fortunes offshore

By UPI Staff  |  April 3, 2016 at 4:55 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 3 (UPI) -- An unprecedented leak of millions of documents allegedly show politicians, prominent world leaders and celebrities hide millions in secret offshore tax shelters and use offshore accounts to skirt tax laws.

The so-called Panama Papers, reviewed by numerous investigative journalists throughout Europe, raise questions about the ethics of such tax havens, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said. It is not unlawful to use offshore accounts, but what the documents reveal is likely to provoke urgent calls for reform.

The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung first obtained the 11.5 million documents from an anonymous source. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based in Washington, D.C., shared the documents with The Guardian, BBC and scores of other news agencies, The Guardian reported.

The papers were leaked from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the world's fourth largest offshore law firm. The journalist consortium reported the offshore holdings of current and former world leaders, including prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine and the king of Saudi Arabia.

Some 214,000 offshore entities are connected to the leak documents and people in more than 200 countries and territories. The papers show major banks have driven the creation of hard-to-trace companies in offshore havens. The documents also implicate a number of governing bodies.

Among the alleged findings are as follows:

- Key member of FIFA's powerful ethics committee -- the group that is supposed to be spearheading reform at world football's scandal-riddled governing body -- acted as legal counsel for individuals and companies recently charged with bribery and corruption. FIFA said it has done nothing illegal.

- Mossack Fonseca has worked with at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the U.S. government due to evidence they were involved in wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

- Offshore companies are linked to the family of China's top leader, Xi Jinping, someone who has vowed to fight "armies of corruption," as well as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who calls himself a reformer in a country shaken by corruption scandals.

- Movie star Jackie Chan had at least six companies managed through the law firm

- Close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin moved up to $2 billion through offshore banks and secret accounts.

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