key revelations so far from Panama Papers Expose

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Sweden considers stiffer laws as Nigeria Maintains Silence
Sweden considers stiffer laws as Nigeria Maintains Silence

Here is a guide to what the Panama Papers, perhaps the biggest data leak in history, have so far revealed about the offshore financial world and the people who make use of it.

Questions for Cameron

The UK prime minister David Cameron has faced questions about his father Ian’s decision to set up an offshore company

David Cameron has disclosed he made money from an offshore investment, after the Panama Papers revealed that his father set up a Bahamas company in the 1980s.

The UK prime minister said he and his wife Samantha sold £30,000 worth of shares in Blairmore Holdings before he became prime minister in 2010.

Mr Cameron insisted the investment was not intended to avoid tax, saying he paid income tax on the dividends but no capital gains tax as the profit made was less than the annual couple’s tax free allowance.

Downing Street hope the disclosures will ease the pressure on Mr Cameron, who has been accused of hypocrisy by opposition parties at a time when his government has been leading international calls for tax havens to publish a register of beneficial ownership of offshore companies.

Fifa’s new chief

Gianni Infantino, Fifa’s newly-elected top official, is under fire after the latest Panama Papers revelations showed he signed off on a contract with two businessmen who have since been accused of bribery.

The president of world football’s governing body signed away TV rights for Europe’s premier club competition to father and son pair Hugo and Mariano Jinkis in 2006 in his position as an official with Uefa. The US is seeking to extradite the two Argentines to face bribery charges as part of an FBI investigation into corruption in football.

Swiss police raided Uefa’s headquarters on Wednesday as part of a probe in to the TV deal.

Putin’s circle

The musician Sergei Roldugin, a friend of Vladimir Putin, is linked to several offshore entities

The most prominent name mentioned in the coverage of the Panama Papers is one that does not actually appear in them: Vladimir Putin.

The stories instead relate to Sergei Roldugin — musician, matchmaker and, it appears, integral cog in an offshore web with the Russian president at its centre. The cellist, who introduced Mr Putin to his ex-wife, is connected to a network of companies through which at least $2bn obliquely moved, the leaked files reportedly show. The network included Russian banks and businessmen close to the president, as well as companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and Panama.

Iceland’s prime minister

The Mossack Fonseca files revealed that Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and his wife, latterly just his wife, owned a company in the British Virgin Islands that held bonds worth millions of dollars.

Those bonds were issued by Icelandic banks that collapsed in the financial crisis of 2008. Mr Gunnlaugsson’s government negotiated a deal with the banks’ creditors, leaving him open to allegations that he had a conflict of interest. When reporters working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists put details of their findings to him, he walked out of the interview. When Iceland’s president blocked his attempt to cling on, Mr Gunnlaugsson stepped down.

Ukraine and China

Petro Poroshenko, owner of Roshen, put his assets into an offshore vehicle

Before he won Ukraine’s presidency in June 2014 during the fallout from Russia’s invasion, Petro Poroshenko was known as the “chocolate king”. He had promised to sell most of his business assets if elected.

In August that year, with the nation’s economy in freefall, he switched his confectionery business into a new holding company in the British Virgin Islands, the leaked files reportedly reveal. Mr Poroshenko insists he did nothing wrong. The public prosecutor agrees, saying that a preliminary assessment had not suggested any crime had been committed.

In China, relatives of a number of current and former members of the highest body in the land, the standing committee of the politburo of the Communist party, have offshore companies set up by Mossack Fonseca, the leak reportedly reveals. Among them is the brother-in-law of President Xi Jinping.

Syria’s suppliers

The documents reportedly show that Mossack Fonseca helped to incorporate and maintain three companies in the Seychelles that the US alleges were involved in supplying fuel to Bashar al-Assad’s military. The Syrian president’s air campaign against his own people would not have been possible otherwise, Washington has claimed.

The ICIJ says the leaked files indicate that the law firm has worked with at least 33 people or companies who are subject to US sanctions. It adds, though, that Mossack Fonseca had stopped working for some of these clients before the US Treasury added them to its sanctions list.

Banking connections

Four of the banks referenced in the Panama Papers leak

The leak links some large banks to questionable financial dealings. UBS, Credit Suisse and two units of HSBC all feature in the top six in the list of banks asking Mossack Fonseca to create companies for their clients.

It had already emerged last year that HSBC’s chief, Stuart Gulliver, had set up his own offshore account, using the firm. Mr Gulliver said at the time he opened the offshore company “purely for privacy” and achieved “no tax advantage and no financial advantage whatsoever”.

It is not clear from the Panama Papers whether the assets connected to the offshore companies these banks procured from Mossack Fonseca were properly declared. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the banks.

London property

The Panama Papers have further exposed how foreign politicians and plutocrats own some of London’s best addresses using anonymous offshore companies.

The revelation will come as little surprise to readers of Private Eye, which has been investigating the trend for years.

But among the high-profile figures identified in the leaked files from Panamanian lawyers Mossack Fonseca are the prime minister of Pakistan, Iraq’s former interim prime minister, and the president of the Nigerian senate, according to The Guardian.

Famous faces

Lionel Messi and, clockwise from left: Aishwarya Rai, Jackie Chan and Pedro Almodovar

You do not have to be a president, or even a drug lord, to set up an offshore structure. Pedro Almodóvar, the Oscar-winning Spanish film director; Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan; a former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai, have all reportedly used the firm to create offshore companies. Lionel Messi, widely regarded as the best footballer in the world, owned with his father a Panama company called Mega Star Enterprises Inc, the documents reportedly show.

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About Haruna Magaji 2422 Articles
Haruna Magaji is a journalist, foreign policy expert and closet musician. He is a graduate of ABU Zaria and a member of the Nigerian union of journalists. JSA, as he is fondly called, resides in Suleja, Abuja. email him at - [email protected]

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