The offshore holdings of a dozen current and former world leaders and some of their closest allies have been revealed in a massive leak of information dubbed the Panama Papers.
Confidential documents obtained from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca from an anonymous source purports to show how the firm, which has branches across the globe, allegedly helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax.
The firm denied any wrongdoing. In a statement, Mossack Fonseca, said: "We only incorporate companies, which just about everyone acknowledges is important, and something that’s critical in ensuring the global economy functions efficiently. In providing those services, we follow both the letter and spirit of the law. Because we do, we have not once in nearly 40 years of operation been charged with criminal wrongdoing. We’re proud of the work we do, notwithstanding recent and willful attempts by some to mischaracterize it.”
The firm’s records contained information on 214,000 offshore companies connected to people in 200 countries and territories, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ), a Washington-based nonprofit, which pored over the 11.5 million records.
Here’s a list of the international figures who have been linked to the Panama Papers:
Vladimir Putin’s associates
The Russian president’s name does not appear in any of the records, but his best friend and other close associates have been named by the ICIJ investigation for allegedly having helped launder more than $2 billion. A Putin spokesman said last week that it was bracing for an upcoming “information attack” and that an organization was trying to smear the Russian leader.
Iceland's Prime Minister co-owned a British Virgin Islands-registered company called Wintris Inc., which reportedly held shares worth nearly $4 million in three Icelandic banks that collapsed during the financial crisis of 2008. He stormed out of a reecent television interview when asked to explain his involvement in the offshore company. His spokesperson said in a statement to ICIJ that the Prime Minister had “adhered to Icelandic law” and properly disclosed their financial interests to the tax authorities.
The president of Argentina did not disclose his connection to Fleg Trading, a company which was incorporated in the Bahamas in 1998 and dissolved in January 2009. Macri, his father and brother were directors of the company. Macri's spokesman told ICIJ that the Argentine president didn't list Fleg Trading as an asset because he had no capital participation in the company.
The Ukrainian president set up a secret offshore company in the British Virgin Islands in 2014 when his troops were being wiped out in eastern Ukraine by Russian troops and pro-Moscow rebels, according to The Guardian, citing the Panama Papers. A spokesman for Poroshenko said in a statement to the ICIJ that the creation of the trust had no relation to political and military events in the Ukraine.
Bashar Assad’s cousins
The Syrian president is linked to the Panama Papers through two cousins, Rami and Hafez Makhlouf, who control key gateways to Syria's oil and telecoms industries, USA Today reports.
The Argentine professional soccer star and his father, Jorge Horacio, were the ultimate beneficial owners of a Mossack Fonseca-registered company called Mega Star Enterprises, which was set up in 2012, according to The Guardian. They are both currently on trial in Spain for tax evasion, the newspaper said. Messi plays as a forward for Spanish club Barcelona and the Argentina national team.
David Cameron’s father
The late father of the British Prime Minister ran an offshore company that allegedly avoided paying taxes in Britain by hiring several Bahamas residents to sign its paperwork, The Guardian reports. Ian Cameron, who died in 2010, helped create and develop Blairmore Holdings Inc. in Panama in 1982 and was involved in the investment fund until his death, according to the ICIJ.
The former Prime Minister of Georgia owned a company based in the British Virgin Islands, although it's not clear what the company was used for, according to the ICIJ. The reclusive billionaire, whose tenure as prime minister ended in 2013 after about a year, earned his wealth in Russia in the metals and banking industries. Gia Volski, a representative for the ruling party in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, told state TV that Ivanishvili "has nothing to hide and has never hidden anything,” the Associated Press reports.