Governments across the world have begun investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful after a leak of four decades of documents from a Panamanian law firm that specialised in setting up offshore companies. The United States, Australia, Austria, France, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands were among countries which said they had begun investigating the allegations, based on more than 11.5 million documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca. The Australian Taxation Office said it was investigating more than 800 wealthy Mossack Fonseca clients and had linked more than 120 of them to an associate offshore service provider located in Hong Kong, which it did not name.
What is being alleged?
The "Panama Papers" revealed financial arrangements of global politicians and public figures including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the prime ministers of Britain, Iceland and Pakistan, and the President of Ukraine. While holding money in offshore companies is not illegal, journalists who received the leaked documents said they could provide evidence of funds hidden for tax evasion, money laundering, sanctions busting, drug deals or other crimes. Mossack Fonseca said it had set up more than 240,000 offshore companies for clients around the globe.
How is the firm reacting?
The firm's head, Ramon Fonseca, denied any wrongdoing but said his firm had suffered a "limited" hack on its database which was part of "an international campaign against privacy".
What about those mentioned?
The Kremlin said the documents contained "nothing concrete and nothing new" while a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said his late father's reported links to an offshore company were a "private matter". Iceland's opposition called on Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson to resign after his wife was named in connection with a secretive company in an offshore haven.
What impact could the leak have?
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel questioned the morals of the financial world. "The greed of the super-rich is connected to the lack of conscience in the banking and financial sector. Both damage the trust in the rule of law. We should not tolerate the fact that one section of society works hard and sticks to the rules while another section cheats society," he said.