Panama Papers: what we know today

Editor’s note, April 6, 8:07 a.m.: This story has been updated throughout.

A massive data leak occurred Sunday and impacted countries all over the world. What has come to be known as the Panama Papers put the spotlight on public officials accused of money laundering and tax evading.

With so many people involved, the stream of information becomes clogged. Here are several points to remember as the Panama Papers incident continues to unfold.

What are the Panama Papers?

An anonymous source contacted Suddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, and leaked 2.6 terabytes of data containing 11.5 million documents from a Panamanian law firm involved in selling anonymous offshore companies. The law firm, Mossack Fonseca, sold companies that were built to allow their owners to cover up everything from tax evasions to business dealings around the world.

For about a year, the German newspaper, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and about 400 journalists from almost 100 different media organizations sorted through these files that contain about 40 years worth of confidential data.


Scale of the leak

Based on the in-depth report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, this is the largest data leak to date. In a graphic from the report, the amount of data leaked through Wikileaks, Offshore Leaks, Lux Leaks and Swiss Leaks combined pales in comparison to the magnitude of the Panama Papers leak.


Scope of leak

  • Anonymous source with access to the Mossack Fonseca documents leaked data through encrypted email exchange to:
  • Reporter with German News source, Suddeutsche Zeitung, who made contact with:
  • ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists), who built a two-factor-authentication protected search engine for leaked documents, and shared the search URL via encrypted email with:
  • News outlets including the Guardian, BBC, and others, who used it as a tool to evaluate and translate the documents


Who’s involved?

Along with the Prime Minister of Iceland, check out this detailed list of the other high-profile names involved and connected to the Panama Papers.

Names of individuals named in the documents include heads of state, government officials, soccer affiliates, friends and family of government officials, and other notable people.

The list of Americans exposed was not released until early this afternoon via the Guardian.

What’s the deal with Iceland?

The Icelandic Prime Minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, was the first to take the hit with the Panama Papers leak. The documents revealed that his wife is a shareholder of an offshore investment company called Wintris, Inc., and he was a former owner before passing his stake to his wife. Their involvement was legal, yet he walked out on an interview questioning his knowledge of the company, and the Icelandic people began their protests rooted in suspicion of the Prime Minister. In light of the pressure, Gunnlaugsson’s office announced that he was stepping aside for an unknown amount of time, and passing his duties to Iceland’s agriculture and fisheries minister.


Will the documents ever be accessible to the public?

This question still hangs in the air, because part of the documents leaked concern private individuals and their rights. Some news organizations have attached individual documents to stories, but a public, searchable database for the documents is not available at this time.


Need further clarification?

For a breakdown of what has been happening in Panama, take a look at Vox’s graphic video that simplifies offshore banking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *