An anonymous source has handed 2.6TB worth of records from Mossack Fonseca, one of the world's largest offshore law firms, to a consortium of news outlets, including The Guardian.
The dump includes 11.5M files, whose contents reveal a complex system of tax evasion that implicates some of the richest, most powerful people in the world, from Vladimir Putin to former members of the UK Tory government and the father of UK Tory prime minister David Cameron.
Putin is implicated in $2B worth of offshore accounts, in a scheme that also implicates his top cronies. Also implicated are Nawaz Sharif, the PM of Pakistan; Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko; Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, and former Iraqi PM Ayad Allaw, as well as current and former members of China's politburo. There's even a member of Fifa's ethics committee!
The company's internal documents reveal that they view 95% of their work "consists in selling vehicles to avoid taxes."
The Prime Minister of Iceland stormed out of an interview where he was questioned about his offshore holdings. Opposition leaders are calling for a snap election, which could bring the Pirate Party to power, a remarkable circumstance that would have major political implications around the world — for one thing, the Icelandic Pirates have previously lobbied for their government to extend an Icelandic passport and asylum to Edward Snowden.
As Snowden himself wrote, "Biggest leak in the history of data journalism just went live, and it's about corruption."
The Panama Papers reveal:
Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.
* A $2bn trail leads all the way to Vladimir Putin. The Russian president's best friend – a cellist called Sergei Roldugin – is at the centre of a scheme in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore. Some of it ends up in a ski resort where in 2013 Putin's daughter Katerina got married.
* Among national leaders with offshore wealth are Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister; Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt's former president; and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.
* Six members of the House of Lords, three former Conservative MPs and dozens of donors to UK political parties have had offshore assets.
The families of at least eight current and former members of China's supreme ruling body, the politburo, have been found to have hidden wealth offshore.
* Twenty-three individuals who have had sanctions imposed on them for supporting the regimes in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Russia, Iran and Syria have been clients of Mossack Fonseca. Their companies were harboured by the Seychelles, the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other jurisdictions.
* A key member of Fifa's powerful ethics committee, which is supposed to be spearheading reform at world football's scandal-hit governing body, acted as a lawyer for individuals and companies recently charged with bribery and corruption.
The Panama Papers: how the world's rich and famous hide their money offshore
[Juliette Garside, Holly Watt and David Pegg/The Guardian]
About the Panama Papers
[Frederik Obermaier, Bastian Obermayer, Vanessa Wormer and Wolfgang Jaschensky/Süddeutsche Zeitung]