Panama Papers Explained

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016: I woke up with a big smile on my face despite my headache, because I had an awesome birthday celebration with my girl friends the night before. I’m spending the day relaxing recovering, having a massage and then, supper with my family. I was drinking my coffee and reading the news, looking forward to my awesome day, until I read the headline:

Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption

I’m going to be honest, I was pretty pissed off. First, because I’m trying to keep my faith in the good of this world, and things like this upset me for the average honest citizen (myself included), for my parents that I’ve seen bust their butts off to send us to school. Also, because today was relaxing day and… It’s just… I already had a headache, I didn’t really need another one. Regardless, I’m too curious to let this go: I spent my Sunday morning reading about the infamous Panama Papers. I still had an amazing time with my family and all, if you’re curious.

So… What the fuck are the Panama Papers? Let me explain, but I’m warning you: if you’re struggling to pay rent or tuition, if you’re an honest citizen, if you saw your parents work hard to provide for you, if you work hard for your goals, if you pay your taxes, this shit will not make you happy. This seems straight from Hollywood. It’s so fucked up.

The Leak

In early 2015, an anonymous source contacted a German Newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), via encrypted chat, providing ultra confidential documents from Mossack Fonseca Law Firm (Monssfon), a law firm specialized in offshore accounts. John Doe didn’t want money, or anything in return, except for protection, for obvious reasons.

Jdoe.png
How it all started. Source

But first, important definitions to know:

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Offshore:
 managing, registering, conducting, or operating in a foreign country, often with financial, legal and tax benefits. (1)

Offshore Company: A company incorporated for the purpose of operating outside the country of its registration and/or the place of residence of its directors, shareholders and beneficial owners. Again, this is typically pursued to realize various financial, legal or tax benefits. (1) An offshore company is not illegal in itself. It is however, when the purpose of it is to conceal the identities of the real owners, for financial benefits, it is. Which was obviously the case in the Panama Papers.

Shell corporations: A company without active business whose purpose is to serve as a vehicle for another business’ transactions, without really having any significant assets, nor operations. (2)
In other words: Fake ass company that doesn’t have shit (#nomoney #nobitches), to hide its owners shady business’, usually used for tax evasion purposes. Also known as mailbox companies.
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According to Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), for a country to be considered a tax haven it must have one of these three things:

  • No income tax OR low rate income tax
  • Bank Secrecy laws
  • History of non-cooperation with other countries on exchanging information about tax matters

Here is what you need to know about Panama: “Panama has all three of those and they are probably the worst”(3). Is it much of a surprise that Hillary and Obama pushed for and succeeded in the USA having a free trade agreement with Panama, regardless of the obvious predictions? (4) Wonder why…? -_-

MossFon is a Panamanian law firm that sells anonymous offshore companies worldwide, shell corporations for only 1,000$ USD (what a deal, when your wallet is a couple of billions!). For a little bit more, they offer more services, such as fake names from imaginary people as owners, a sham director or conceal the company’s real shareholder. They have founded and managed thousands of “companies”.

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SZ paired with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to analyze all the data. This took an incredible worldwide team effort; over 400 journalists from over 100 different media organizations around the world came together, had secret meetings around the world, to research these documents and their validity. These papers took over a year to read, organize and understand well enough for it to be news material… and it’s still going.

SZ ultimately acquired about 2.6 terabytes of data, that to say 11.5 million documents, making this the biggest leak in the history of journalism. The research was long and exhausting, but it bear fruits, as the documents exposed 214 000 offshore corporations, bribery scandals, corrupt heads of state and government. All these e-mails, pictures, PDFs, excerpts of an internal MossFon database, cover a monumental period of time: from the 1970’s to the spring of 2016. That’s 46 years of data! That’s older than the age my mom will admit to be!

leak meas
Here’s a visual, to show the immensity of the leak. Source

The data provides rare insights into a world that can only exist in the shadows. It proves how a global industry led by major banks, legal firms, and asset management companies secretly manages the estates of the world’s rich and famous: from politicians, FIFA officials, fraudsters and drug smugglers, to celebrities and professional athletes.

-“About the Panama Papers” by Frederik Obermaier, Bastian Obermayer, Vanessa Wormer and Wolfgang Jaschensky – for Süddeutsche Zeitung

The List

The journalists compiled a list including important politicians, Government officials and their relatives, heads of states,  business people, international criminals, famous athletes and celebrities. Most family members of, friends of, etc. on this list were used as name lenders to conceal the real owner. These are a few you might know, for the complete list, click here :

  • Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Iceland’s (former) prime minister (he resigned on 07/04/16, after protests asking him to, due to the Panama Papers). Click here to watch an awkward interview about tax havens, before the leak. It’s so painful, you can only laugh.
  • Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. Technically not on the list because he borrowed  his friends names for embezzlement. Including Sergueï Roldouguine, a Cellist. Roldouguine said the money came from donations, Putin was unfazed. He said 1) you ONLY found 2 millions LOL. 2) What tax evasion? No idea what you’re talking about. End of convo. 3) This leak is a western conspiracy against Russia(5) from the USA… #Putinphobia, apparently. LOL (Exposure of this in the Russian media is minimal, if any. Wonder why…)
  • Michel Platini, the (suspended) FIFA’s president along with Jérôme Valcke. Two of maaaaaany FIFA affiliates.
  • Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina
  • Ian Cameron, late father of David Cameron, British Prime Minister (who is linked, because he managed and made profit from these) -who has an alleged past of sexual intercourse with a pig. (I shit you not! poor piggy). His reply was at first: Idk what you talking ’bout… Then: well… the money was just sitting there, so it’s not really my fault… I didn’t do anything… Alllllll this before finally, nonchalantly, admitting the truth, in euphemisms of course. Click here for him admitting having the offshare companies, and here for his full statement. The people are asking his resignation.
  • Jorge Milton Cifuentes-Villa, Colombian drug trafficker, Homie of El Chapo Guzman – This guy’s cool tho. Jorge mah homie. No stress man, we cool. You cool. 🙂
  • Lionel Messi, soccer player, and his dad Jorge Horacio Messi – admitted having the offshore company, but said it has never been for tax evasion purposes. lol. It was there to look pretty or something.
  • Andy Cole, soccer player
  • Xi Jinping, Chinese President. According to whom, the Panama Papers are nothing more than Western Propaganda, and so it is not in the news (6). However, some carefully chosen information about Jinping’s competition’s offshores is very present in the Chinese media.
  • Jackie Chan, actor
  • Heather Mills, ex-model
  • Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Indian actress and former Miss World
  • Simon Cowell, asshole judge on American Idol (is that show still a thing? Idk)
  • Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine
  • Daddy Yankee, Singer – response: It’s not true. la la la la not listening. It’s not true it’s not true it’s not true it’s not true. I need some gasolina for these papers
  • Pedro Almodovar, Director
  • Gonzalo Delaveau, head of global corruption watchdog Transparency International LOL, seriously, man?! (Chile branch, resigned 04/03/2016)
  • Kojo Annan, son of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, from the UNITED NATIONS…… !

 MossFon’s response

download
Because Taxes are for poor people

It’s pretty lame.

tumblr_ny9uuh854O1use6ffo1_500
Tax evasion in our firm? Omg that be crayyy

We can’t say anything about our clients because of legal reasons…. Actually, we don’t even know some of these people! They’re not our clients!… You know what?! The only crime committed here was the hack of our system!! MossFon are the real victims here! We gonn’ sue!!… Whuuuuu? Tax evasion? Omg…. cray cray! we good, responsible lawyers who have never committed a crime! Look at this list of good things about us, written by us. This should convince you. Fo’ Sho’ this is all nothing but a big misunderstanding. NO ONE understands us! (except ourselves) Damn… all these docs… :/ K but forreal, sorry if but we had no idea :/ trust me, it’s got nothing to do with us… Can we focus on the real traitor here? The whistleblower! 

You get the drill.
Click here to read MossFon’s full response to the leak (PDF)

MossFon is the 4th largest off shore firm in the world. Imagine what more fraudulent documents are in the Top 3?

My personal opinion

Actually, them doing everything legally might be true, by finding legal loopholes, also due to the fact that Panama has loose regulations when it comes to these things, which is scary and saddening at the same time. The entire story here shouldn’t be about a specific individual. Personally, I think we should focus on the broken system, lead by greedy leaders. Sure, Gunnlaugsson resigned: but the defective system is still going. The apples on the tree we’re watering are still poisoned, even if a few dropped. The problem is the system.

While most of us abide to the rules and pay our taxes, the overly rich and wealthy have a way to evade them. What really gets to me is the greed… & the fact they have no shame in having a response like the one David Cameron did: a fake ass PR reviewed, i’m-a-sad-puppy-forgive-me apology. Cameron is trying to get any crumbs of sympathy by fitting in some jokes, saying Oopsie Daisies guys, mah bad, I made a mistake, but look i’m a big boy now and accept the blame, because the world is watching- like it’s no big deal, like he just forgot the pizza in the oven. I find it quite insulting, tbh. I feel he’s insulting my intellect with shit like this.

While they’re hiding their multi-million dollar boats and the billions of tax free dollars, this happens in the world.

 

Sometimes we tell the children we’re cooking supper, but we’re just boiling leaves. Eventually, they fall asleep with an empty stomach, but it allows us to survive another day.

This is why it really does fucking piss me off. Just tell me, why do we have world leaders, then? I mean, is it for them to laugh in their yachts, while we’re not getting proper care as citizens, and give us some pretty speech every once in a while to shut us up when we get angry? WTF is the point? I wouldn’t mind having to fix my car every 5 days because of the DAMN potholes, if I knew at least the money was put in something society benefits from…. but education funds are cut, health funds are cut, every social funds are cut, and yet, we still pay taxes. People are still sick, uneducated, dying. While all this is happening they’re hiding stolen billions of dollars to avoid paying taxes, on the money they shouldn’t have in the first place?!?!… IS YOU FOR REAL BRUUUH!

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Also, one question remains in my head:

Where are the Americans?

NO ONE from the U.S. White house on that list? No USA officials, head government, nothing, absolutely NOTHING? No non-immigrant American celebrities in there? … Some scream conspiracy, some say it is simply because it is easy to evade taxes on American soil  (Delaware) already, no need to go too far.

I just find it sooo weird that no U.S. head was on there. I can’t wrap my head around it. Maybe the digging isn’t done? Maybe Americans had a more complicated way to hide their names? Maybe Americans prefer the Bahamas?

What do you think?

Oh, and while we’re talking politics. Are any of you feeling the bern? If you’re debating who to vote for, consider this: Hillary lobbied for the Panama free trade agreement, Bernie opposed it, predicting this would happen. I’m not even going to talk about Trump because he probably still doesn’t understand all the words.

What are your thoughts on all of this?

-Pissed off L

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Informative and short videos about the Panama Papers:

John Oliver – Panama Papers: Cameron and Putin

The Panama Papers, explained with piggy banks

Panama Papers Explained

Panama Papers – The Secrets of Dirty Money

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Quoted Sources

  1. http://www.unitrustcapital.com/offshore-company/what-is-an-offshore-company.html
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_corporation
  3. http://ctj.org/ctjinthenews/2016/04/telesur_bernie_sanders_warned_congress_about_panama_papers_in_2011.php#.Vw08g6grKhc

Sources

  1. http://time.com/4286371/panama-papers-leak-mossack-fonseca/
  2. http://qz.com/654080/mossack-fonsecas-defense-of-its-business-in-the-offshore-financial-industry-decoded/
  3. http://www.lemonde.fr/panama-papers/video/2016/04/03/panama-papers-au-coeur-de-la-boite-noire-des-paradis-fiscaux_4894827_4890278.html#xtor=RSS-3208
  4. http://ctj.org/ctjinthenews/2016/04/international_business_times_panama_papers_obama_clinton_pushed_trade_deal_amid_warnings_it_would_ma.php#.Vw09NKgrKhc
  5. http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2016-04-07/putin-says-panama-papers-part-of-us-plot-to-weaken-russia
  6. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/panama-papers-china/476889/
  7. http://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/03/mossack-fonsecas-response-to-the-panama-papers
  8. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Papers
  9. http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/articles/56febff0a1bb8d3c3495adf4/
  10. http://www.lemonde.fr/panama-papers/article/2016/04/03/panama-papers-le-recap-episode-1_4894878_4890278.html
  11. http://www.lemonde.fr/panama-papers/visuel/2016/04/04/panama-papers-stairway-to-tax-heaven-le-jeu_4895419_4890278.html
  12. http://www.lemonde.fr/panama-papers/article/2016/04/04/evasion-fiscale-si-vous-n-avez-rien-suivi-aux-panama-papers_4895259_4890278.html
  13. https://panamapapers.icij.org/20160403-panama-papers-global-overview.html
  14. http://www.lapresse.ca/international/201604/03/01-4967142-les-paradis-fiscaux-largement-utilises-par-des-leaders-mondiaux.php
  15. http://www.lapresse.ca/international/201604/04/01-4967352-paradis-fiscaux-une-onde-de-choc-internationale.php?utm_categorieinterne=trafficdrivers&utm_contenuinterne=cyberpresse_vous_suggere_4967769_article_POS1
  16. http://www.lapresse.ca/international/201604/04/01-4967352-paradis-fiscaux-une-onde-de-choc-internationale.php?utm_categorieinterne=trafficdrivers&utm_contenuinterne=cyberpresse_vous_suggere_4967769_article_POS1
  17. http://www.lapresse.ca/international/201604/05/01-4967769-panama-papers-demission-du-premier-ministre-islandais.php
  18. http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2016/04/04/20002-20160404ARTFIG00183-panama-papers-quand-un-certain-john-doe-a-devoile-ses-secrets-au-sddeutsche-zeitung.php

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