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The Panama Papers (Spanish: Papeles de Panamá) are 2.6TB of data or 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities leaked beginning on 3 April 2016. The documents, some dating back to the 1970s, were created by, and taken from, former Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca.
The documents contain personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private. While offshore business entities are legal (see Offshore Magic Circle), reporters found that some of the Mossack Fonseca shell corporations were used for illegal purposes, including fraud, tax evasion, and evading international sanctions.
"John Doe", the whistleblower who leaked the documents to German journalist Bastian Obermayer from the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), remains anonymous, even to the journalists who worked on the investigation. "My life is in danger", the whistleblower told them. In a May 6, 2016 statement, John Doe cited income inequality as the reason for the action and said they leaked the documents "simply because I understood enough about their contents to realize the scale of the injustices they described". Doe added that they had never worked for any government or intelligence agency and expressed willingness to help prosecutors if granted immunity from prosecution. After SZ verified that the statement did in fact come from the source for the Panama Papers, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) posted the full document on its website.
SZ asked the ICIJ for help because of the amount of data involved. Journalists from 107 media organizations in 80 countries analyzed documents detailing the operations of the law firm. After more than a year of analysis, the first news stories were published on April 3, 2016, along with 150 of the documents themselves. The project represents an important milestone in the use of data journalism software tools and mobile collaboration.
The documents were dubbed the Panama Papers because of the country they were leaked from, but the Panamanian government expressed strong objections to the name over concerns that it would tarnish the government's and country's image worldwide, as did other entities in Panama and elsewhere. Some media outlets covering the story have used the name "Mossack Fonseca papers".
In October 2020, German authorities issued an international arrest warrant for the two founders of the law firm at the core of the tax evasion scandal exposed by the Panama Papers. Cologne prosecutors are seeking German-born Jürgen Mossack and Panamanian Ramón Fonseca on charges of accessory to tax evasion and forming a criminal organization.
- "About the Panama Papers Investigations". International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
- "Giant leak of offshore financial records exposes global array of crime and corruption". OCCRP. OCCRP. April 3, 2016. Archived from the original on April 4, 2016.
- Schmidt, Michael S.; Myers, Steven Lee (April 3, 2016). "Panama Law Firm's Leaked Files Detail Offshore Accounts Tied to World Leaders". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on March 29, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
- ""Помогут ли "Панамские документы" расставанию россиян с иллюзиями": СМИ обсуждают последствия "Офшоргейта" для РФ" ["Will the Panama Papers help" parting of Russians with illusions ": the media discuss the consequences of" Offshorgate "for the Russian Federation]. newsru.com (in Russian). April 5, 2016. Archived from the original on April 6, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
- ""Вашего покорного слуги там нет": Путин прокомментировал "Панамские документы"" ["Your humble servant is not there": Putin commented on the "Panama Papers"]. newsru.com (in Russian). April 7, 2016. Archived from the original on April 10, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
- O’Donovan, James; Wagner, Hannes F; Zeume, Stefan (February 11, 2019). "The Value of Offshore Secrets: Evidence from the Panama Papers". The Review of Financial Studies. 32 (11): 4117–4155. doi:10.1093/rfs/hhz017. hdl:10.1093/rfs/hhz017. ISSN 0893-9454.
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- Vasilyeva, Natalya; Anderson, Mae (April 3, 2016). "News Group Claims Huge Trove of Data on Offshore Accounts". The New York Times. Associated Press. Archived from the original on January 11, 2020. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
- Kenton, Will. "What Are the Panama Papers?". Investopedia. Archived from the original on June 8, 2020. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
- International Consortium of Investigative journalists (April 3, 2016). "A new ICIJ investigation exposes a rogue offshore industry". Archived from the original on May 13, 2016. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
- "Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption". The Panama Papers. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – ICIJ. April 3, 2016. Archived from the original on May 11, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
- Clark, Nicola (April 5, 2016). "How a Cryptic Message, 'Interested in Data?,' Led to the Panama Papers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved August 12, 2016.
- "How two German newspaper reporters broke the story behind the Panama Papers". Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved August 12, 2016.
- Garside, Juliette (April 16, 2016). "Panama Papers: inside the Guardian's investigation into offshore secrets". The Guardian. Archived from the original on May 6, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- "Panama Papers: Source breaks silence on Mossack Fonseca leaks". BBC News. May 6, 2016. Archived from the original on May 6, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- "Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come". ICIJ. May 6, 2016. Archived from the original on May 7, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
- "DocumentCloud 150 Results Source: Internal documents from Mossack Fonseca (Panama)". DocumentCloud. Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. Archived from the original on March 19, 2017. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
- "Panama Papers: the scandal that damaged the image of a country". www.panamatoday.com. Archived from the original on September 27, 2018. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
- Sources using the term "Mossack Fonseca papers":
- Robertson, Joshua; Farrell, Paul (April 4, 2016). "How a Hong Kong corruption scandal sparked strife at Mossack Fonseca". The Guardian. Sydney, Australia. Archived from the original on May 5, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
- "Modigliani work sequestered as Mossack Fonseca papers reveal disputed owners". The Irish Times. April 11, 2016. Archived from the original on June 4, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
- (This source appears to use both the term "Panama Papers" ["the leaked Panama Papers"] and the term "Mossack Fonseca papers"): "Two INM board members linked with Panama papers". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. April 19, 2016. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
- Obermaier, Frederik; Obermayer, Bastian; Schmitt, Jörg (October 19, 2020). "Panama Papers: Haftbefehle gegen Mossack-Fonseca-Gründer". Süddeutsche.de. Retrieved October 24, 2020.