BusinessCorporate FinancePanama Papers saga rages on as leaked documents surface

Panama Papers saga rages on as leaked documents surface

Portion of stolen law firm files revealed to the public, days before world leaders meet to tackle financial corruption

MORE THAN 200,000 leaked files belonging to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca have been posted online, just days before world leaders meet to discuss how to expose corporate corruption.

The International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ) has posted less than a fifth of the 11.5 million stolen documents onto its website, despite Mossack Fonseca recently issuing a cease and desist order to prevent the documents from going public. The law firm has consistently denied any wrongdoing and claim they are the victim of a hack.

‘Published in the public interest’

The Panama Papers has become one of the largest data leaks in history, revealing how powerful political figures and some of the world’s wealthiest keep their money in offshore tax havens.

David Cameron and Russian president Vladimir Putin have come under scrutiny over personal ties with the papers, while Icelandic president Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson resigned after his wife’s connection to the law firm sparked public anger.

The ICIJ insists that the documents that have been made public should not be labelled as a ‘data dump’ – synonymous with the activities of the WikiLeaks organisation.

“The database will not include records of bank accounts and financial transactions, emails and other correspondence, passports and telephone numbers. The selected and limited information is being published in the public interest,” the journalism consortium said.

An end to financial secrecy?

Earlier this week the anonymous whistleblower behind the papers, currently known as ‘John Doe’, produced an 1,800 word statement on the ICIJ’s website explaining his motives behind stealing the documents, highlighting a need to tackle income inequality and bring an end to financial secrecy.

In a separate move, a 300-strong group consisting of economists, Nobel Prize-winners and government advisors have signed a letter urging global authorities “to make significant moves towards ending the era of tax havens”.

Signatories of the Oxfam-coordinated letter include Capital in the Twenty-First Century author Thomas Piketty and current Nobel Prize-winner for Economics Angus Deaton.

“The existence of tax havens does not add to overall global wealth or well-being; they serve no useful economic purpose,” said the letter, adding that the Panama Papers is one of a number of recent exposes that’s revealed that the secrecy behind tax havens “fuels corruption and undermines countries’ ability to collect their fair share of taxes”.

Both developments come just days before David Cameron spearheads an anti-corruption summit in London, which will be attended by representatives of over 40 countries as well as the World Bank and the IMF. The prime minister will later this week look to secure a global commitment against widespread financial corruption.

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