The Panama Papers is the name that has been given to the largest leak of 11.5 million files from the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. An anonymous source leaked the files from the Panama based firm to the German newspaper ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’ which in turn shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). From here the files and their contents were shared with large media groups for release.
What do they contain? The files show the sheer scale of the exploitation of offshore tax havens. Not only does it implicate celebrities and business leaders but it also implicates oligarchs and politicians across the globe. Vladimir Putin, David Cameron’s father and Hosni Mubarak have been revealed in some way among the myriad perpetrators.
To give a sense of scale of the leak, WikiLeaks’ leak in 2010 was only 1.7GB worth of data, followed by the Offshore Secrets leak in 2013 which was 260GB of data, the Luxembourg Tax Files leak in 2014 was smaller at 4.4GB of data and then the last before the Panama Papers, the HSBC files in 2015, was only 3.3GB. The Panama Papers leak is 2.6TB of data – ten times bigger than the Offshore Secrets leak.
Of course, none of this is technically illegal because storing money in or running business through an offshore account is done for a number of perfectly legitimate reasons. However, considering that the wealth of the richest 2% has been seen to have increased over the last year and, in the UK, the poor are bearing the brunt of Governmental spending cuts calls will and have been made for more to be done to combat tax evasion. The gap between the richest and the poorest has widened, so it is likely that the Panama Papers will be greeted with so much disgust.
Equally, people have come to expect this from the politicians and world leaders and instead this report confirms how ‘corrupt’ they actually might be. In reality, I expect this report will only strengthen the general sense of apathy in the UK towards the political and business classes and will fuel other alternative political options. Although this is another issue for another time, this may fuel a debate regarding the morality of being ‘super-rich’ and it may generate a regressive reaction from the populace.
Image credit: flickr.com/globovision