The most incredible details from the Panama Papers investigation

Bethan McKernan@mck_beth
Monday 04 April 2016 11:40
news

Millions of confidential documents belonging to a secretive law firm servicing the world's wealthy were leaked on Sunday, exposing how the one per cent hide their money through offshore companies.

The 'Panama Papers', as they have been dubbed, contain links to 72 current or former heads of state, dictators and other powerful clients of secretive Panamaian lawfirm Mossack Fonseca.

The leak is being touted as the biggest in history - and the full range of potential consequences is as of yet unknown.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its partners in more than 100 countries are raking through the more than 11 million documents for evidence of tax evasion, sanction avoidance and money laundering among the work done for clients who wanted secrecy for non-criminal reasons.

Just some of the more baffling details that have come to light include:

1. Ukraine's president took time out on the same day Russia attacked the country to look for a utility bill to send Mossack Fonseca

During the height of the violence in Ukraine in 2014, newly elected President Petro Poroshenko announced on September 1st that Russia had openly attacked the country. He also took the time on the same day to send Mossack Fonseca a copy of a utility bill to prove his home address.

2. Iceland's prime minister co-owned an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands and later claimed he had no knowledge of it when he entered politics

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson transferred his 50 per cent share to his wealthy wife for 70p eight months after entering politics in 2009.

3. At least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the US and other governments because of evidence of wrong doing are among the firm's clients

People doing business with drug lords, North Korea, Iran, Hezbollah, terrorist organisations and a company supplying fuel for Syrian government airstrikes which killed civilians were all helped by the company

4. Vladimir Putin's best friend and confidante Sergey Roldugin, implicated in the leak, wasn't lying when he claimed he isn't a millionaire

The cellist told the New York Times in 2014, “I’m not a businessman, I don’t have millions” - and thanks to Mossack Fonseca, he wasn't lying. He actually ostensibly controls assets in the realm of $100m - many, many times that.

The documents reveal a money trail of more than $2bn leading back to Putin through friends and associates.

The cache shows that in Nevada, one of the firm's most used tax havens, Mossack Fonseca removed paper records from its Las Vegas office and had the phones and computers wiped to protect itself from a US District Court action

6. Anti-corruption campaigners including relatives of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and David Cameron's late father Ian used the firm to set up shell companies

More about Ian Cameron's offshore dealings are revealed by the leaks - despite the fact he pushed for tax haven reform. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson also ran for office on anti-corruption platforms.

7. 140 politicians and public officials around the world are named in the leak

Relatives and associates of Middle Eastern dictators including Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad and Hosni Mubarak used the firm, as well as officials from Pakistan, China, Azerbaijan. In the UK, all those named are linked to the Conservative party.

8. Mossack Fonseca also has dealings in incredibly exploitative African business arrangements

The firm was involved in a $60m insurance scam that left the widows and orphans of South African mining accidents without insurance.

The legal practice is also linked to the diamond trade and several associates and family members of African despots, including the widow of Guinea's former dictator Mamadie Toure.

9. Celebrities including Lionel Messi and Jackie Chan are clients too

Chan used the firm to manage six companies, and a new shell company not previously known to be owned by Messi was set up by Mossack Fonseca .

More from The Independent's live blog: The Panama Papers: now the real investigations begin

More from The Independent: David Cameron's father and senior Tory figures named in 'Panama Papers' leak

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