Saturday 3 December 2016

Panama papers: Biggest data leak in history exposes offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders

Published 03/04/2016 | 20:13

Russian president Vladimir Putin. Photo: PA
Russian president Vladimir Putin. Photo: PA

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has published sensational details of financial arrangements that allow wealthy individuals around the world to avoid paying tax.

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The biggest data leak in history has exposed the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders.

The leak from Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin were involved in a web of secret offshore deals and loans worth as much as $2 billion.

The offshore trail, which involves a massive 11.5million records, starts in Panama, and also travels into Russia and Switzerland.

Sergei Roldugin, who is Putin’s best friend, is at the centre of one scheme in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore. Some of it shows up in a ski resort where Putin’s daughter Katerina got married in 2013.

The sensational findings are the result of a year’s work by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which involves more than 100 news organisations, including The Irish Times and German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The massive leak is bigger than that of whistleblower Edward Snowden in the US, and the publication by Wikileaks of secret American documents.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken described the revelations as a colossal betrayal of taxpayers.

“This exposé offers a rare glimpse into the murky practices of tax dodging – and the sheer size and scale revealed is staggering.

“It shines a light on a toxic global tax system exploited by professional enablers on behalf of those rich enough to hire them. It is the wealthiest individuals and companies, who in a progressive tax system should be paying the most in tax, who have the biggest incentives to exploit this weak architecture to avoid paying their fair share.

“It is not good enough to argue that tax avoidance is permissible because practices fall within the letter of the law. Legal loopholes abuse a broken system. Everyone has a responsibility to contribute towards the public services and infrastructure on which we all rely,” he said.

More to follow.

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