World leaders including Putin, Sharif exposed in Tax haven dump
New Delhi: News organizations from around the world have published investigations based on a massive trove of leaked documents about the secret dealings of aides to Russian president Vladmir Putin, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, Chinese President Xi Jingping, celebs including soccer star Lionel Messi.
The data concerned internal documents from a Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca. Founded by German-born Juergen Mossack, the firm has offices across the globe and is said to be among the world's biggest creators of shell companies.
An investigation into the documents by more than 100 media groups,The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) described as one of the largest such probes in history, revealed the hidden offshore dealings in the assets of around 140 political figures -- including 12 current or former heads of states.
Among the main claims of the ICIJ investigations:
-- Close associates of Putin, who is not himself named in the documents, "secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies," the ICIJ said.
The sons and daughter of Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reportedly set up at least four offshore companies in British Virgin Islands (BVI).
The ICIJ reports said that, "Three children of former and current Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – Mariam, Hasan and Hussain– were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies."
The files identified offshore companies linked to the family of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has led a tough anti-corruption campaign in his country, the ICIJ said.
ICIJ said the law firm's leaked internal files contain information on 214,488 offshore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories. It said it would release the full list of companies and people linked to them early next month.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, on Sunday said the amount of data it obtained was several times larger than a previous cache of offshore data published by WikiLeaks in 2013 that exposed the financial dealings of prominent individuals.
Among the countries with past or present political figures named in the reports are Iceland, Ukraine, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Argentina.
The law firm of a member of FIFA's ethics committee, Juan Pedro Damiani, had business ties with three men indicted in the FIFA scandal: former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo, as well as Hugo Jinkis and his son Mariano who were accused of paying bribes to win soccer broadcast rights in Latin America.
-- Argentine football great Messi and his father owned a Panama company, Mega Star Enterprises Inc., a shell company that had previously not come up in Spanish investigations into the father and son's tax affairs.
At least 33 people and companies in the documents were blacklisted by the US government for wrongdoing, such as North Korea and Iran, as well as Lebanon's Hezbollah, the ICIJ said.
The leaked documents were reviewed by a team of more than 370 reporters from over 70 countries, according to the ICIJ.
The BBC cited Mossack Fonseca as saying it had operated "beyond reproach" for 40 years and had never been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.