What is Panama Papers? How is it the biggest data leak in history?

Panama Papers leak is called the biggest data leak in the history of mankind. Check what is Panama Papers leak case in detail, who is responsible for it, what is Mossack Fonseca and who all are involved in tax violations in India and abroad?
Created On: Dec 21, 2021 14:38 IST
Modified On: Dec 21, 2021 15:03 IST
Panama papers leak case explained
Panama papers leak case explained

What is Panama Paper Leak Case?

An unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the secured database of a well known global legal giant, Mossack Fonseca is what was called famously the Panama Papers case. Did not understand? Try to read the article below. In layman’s language, Panama papers exposed the rich and powerful of the world on how they move their money outside their countries into secret tax-havens. It involves the names of various Indians too. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is a new name that has been added to the list and she has been grilled by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of India. She has been called for an inquiry on the 2016 Panama Leak case. 

Recently a fresh document leak from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca has revealed new offshore links of an array of global elites.

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Panama Paper Case: How were the records found?

The records were found from an anonymous source by the German newspaper,  Süddeutsche Zeitung. The data was shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which in turn shared it with a large network of International partners that included media giants like BBC and Guardian. The publishing of these papers began in April 2016.

Panama Paper Case: About Mossack Fonseca

Mossack Fonseca is a law firm headquartered in Panama that is known for its factory-like production of offshore companies for its worldwide clientele. The company’s leaked documents revealed a list of individuals who had paid the organization to avail the benefits of a secret, the lax regulatory system it operated in. The major aim was to set up offshore entities in tax havens around the world.

Mossack Fonseca’s services include the incorporation of companies in offshore jurisdictions like the British Virgin Islands. It also administers offshore firms for an annual fee. Other services also include wealth management.

The organization has a global network with 600 people who work in 42 countries. The company has franchises around the world. where separately owned affiliates sign up new customers and have exclusive rights to use its brand. Mossack Fonseca operates in tax havens including Switzerland, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, and in the British crown dependencies Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

Prominent names revealed in Panama Papers:

Twelve national leaders have been named in the leaked papers with a $2 billion trail leading to Russian President, Vladimir Putin. His best friend Sergei Roldugin – is at the centre of a scheme in which money from Russian banks is hidden offshore. They are among the list of 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world. 

Some notable inclusions are of Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s ex-prime minister, Ayad Allawi, ex-interim PM and former vice-president of Iraq, Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine and more.

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Panama Paper Leak: How many Indians Found On the List?

As per the Panama Papers, more than 500 Indians are present on the firm’s offshore companies, foundations and trusts list. Almost 234 Indian passports were handed over by clients was revealed by media houses after an investigation of 36,000 files was conducted. 

The Indians linked with the tax haven company are being summoned by ED to explain their foreign remittances since 2004 under the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS).

Check the few names on the list from Indian and abroad below: 

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

Bollywood Actor, Model

Ravindra Kishore Sinha

Rajya Sabha MP of Bihar, India (BJP)

Anurag Kejriwal

Former president of the Lok Satta Party Delhi Branch (India)

Vijay Mallya

Former Rajya Sabha MP

Anil Vasudev Salgaocar

Former Member, Goa Legislative Assembly

Amitabh Bachchan

Bollywood Actor

Salman of Saudi Arabia,

King of Saudi Arabia

Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

Former Emir of Qatar

Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan

President of the United Arab Emirates and Emir of Abu Dhabi

Mauricio Macri

Former President of Argentina

Ayad Allawi

Former Acting Prime Minister of Iraq

To check the complete list of people involved click here

Panama Paper Case: How Big is this leak?

The data leak is bigger than the US diplomatic cables leak released by WikiLeaks in 2010 and Snowden's leak in 2013. This data leak is equivalent to 2.6 terabytes of data from Mossack's internal database. The organization acts for more than 3,00,000 companies worldwide. More than half of them were registered under British administered tax havens. 

Panama Paper Leak Case: What are the repercussions?

All offshore structures are not entirely illegal or fraudulent. They are not all tax havens but some cases like these raise a question on the authenticity of all of them. Some business houses in countries like Russia and Ukraine put their assets offshore to defend them from raids by criminals. Moreover, the taxpayer’s money of any country must not go out. It is ultimately the part of the country’s economy and forms a parallel around it once gone out of the nation premises. 

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