Panama Papers – The Secrets Of Dirty Money – From King Salman To Lionel Messi

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Apr 05 2016
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There was a mega scandal hitting the world over the weekend. It was so huge that Wikileaks now looks like a kindergarten playground. Called the “Panama Papers”, it consists of approximately 11.5 million documents – more than the combined total of the Wikileaks Cablegate, Offshore Leaks, Luxembourg Leaks, and Swiss Leaks.


The Panama Papers’ data is so huge that your ordinary portable hard drive may not be sufficient to store it. At 2.6 Terabytes of leaked data – emails, pdf files, photo files, invoices, bank records – it dwarfed 2010’s Wikileaks Cablegate (1.7 GB), 2013’s Offshore Leaks (260 GB), 2014’s Luxembourg Leaks (4 GB), and 2015’s Swiss Leaks (3.3 GB).

Panama Papers - Scale of Leak

One of the reasons why Panama Papers is now the “Mother of All Leaks” is due to its coverage – spanning from 1977 to the spring of 2016. Hence, the coverage includes those during the age when personal computer wasn’t available yet, at least not commercially, let alone the Internet.


It started when an anonymous source contacted the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), a Germany newspaper over a year ago, offering encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that sells anonymous offshore companies around the world. These shell firms enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady.

Panama Papers - Mossack Fonseca

The whistle blower wanted neither financial compensation nor anything else in return, apart from a few security measures. With these data, the secret is revealed on how a global industry led by major banks, legal firms, and asset management companies secretly manages the estates of the world’s rich and famous.


The rich and famous include politicians (and their family members), FIFA officials, drug smugglers, celebrities, professional athletes and fraudsters. In the past 12 months, around 400 journalists from more than 100 media organizations in over 80 countries have taken part in researching the documents – in a joint cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Panama Papers - The Conversation - How It Started

Involving a staggering 214,488 companies, the leaked data went through a process of uploading, indexing and transforming into machine-readable so that they can be searchable to journalists. The company at the center of all these stories is Mossack Fonseca, a very powerful yet not very well-known law firm, but with branches in Hong Kong, Miami, Zurich, Israel and more than 35 other locations around the world.


Clients can buy an anonymous empty shell company for as little as US$ 1,000. For an extra fee, Mossack Fonseca provides a sham director and conceals the company’s true shareholder. Mossack Fonseca has created, sold, and managed thousands of companies for politicians, crooks, drug dealers, billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.


{ 1 }  King Salman (King of Saudi Arabia: Jan 2015 – Present)

  • The king has taken several luxury houses in London worth at least US$34 million through Inrow Corporation and Verse Development Corporation.

Saudi Arabia King Salman

  • He was also mentioned as “principal users” of a luxury yacht the length of a football field – Erga – hiding behind a series of British Virgin Islands shell companies – Crassus Limited and Park Property Limited.


{ 2 }  Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson (Prime Minister of Iceland: 2013 – Present)

  • The Prime Minister of Iceland andhis wealthy wife, Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir (the daughter of a wealthy Toyota dealer in Iceland), owned a British Virgin Islands shell company called Wintris Inc. which held nearly US$4 million in bonds in Iceland’s three major banks.

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson – Prime Minister of Iceland

  • He did not declare an interest in the company when entering parliament in 2009. He sold his 50% of Wintris to his wife for US$1 (a buck) eight months later, insisting no rules were broken and his wife did not benefit financially.


{ 3 }  Petro Poroshenko (President of Ukraine: 2014 – Present)

  • When Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ran for the top office in 2014, he promised voters he would sell Roshen, Ukraine’s largest candy business, so he could devote his full attention to running the country.

Petro Poroshenko - President of Ukraine

  • Also known as Ukraine’s “Chocolate King”, the billionaire worth an estimated US$ 858 million move his business to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) – Prime Asset Capital – instead. Essentially, he save millions of dollars in Ukrainian taxes.


{ 4 }  Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar: 2007 – 2013)

  • For 6 years, Mr Hamad held three high-profile positions as Qatar’s prime minister, foreign minister (1992 – 2013) and head of the Qatar Investment Authority. The billionaire sheikh acquired a company in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and 3 additional companies in the Bahamas.

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani - Prime Minister of Qatar (2007 - 2013)

  • Through these companies, Al Thani held shares and mooring spaces in the Spanish port of Palma, Mallorca, and managed his super-yacht, the US$300 million Al Mirqab.


{ 5 }  Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (Former Emir of the State of Qatar: 1995 – 2013)

  • Less than a year after Al Thani resigned as Qatar’s ruler, he bought an off-the-shelf company registered in the British Virgin Islands – Afrodille S.A. – with the purpose to hold a bank account in Luxembourg and shares in two South African companies.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani - Emir of the State of Qatar (1995-2013)

  • He held majority ownership in both companies, Rienne S.A. and of Yalis S.A., which held a term deposit with the Bank of China in Luxembourg. Interestingly, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s former prime minister and foreign minister, held the other 25% interest.


{ 6 }  Mauricio Macri (President of Argentina: 2015 – Present)

  • The Argentine president was director and vice president of a Bahamas company, Fleg Trading, created in 1998 and dissolved in 2009 – a financial connection Macri didn’t disclose on asset declarations when he was mayor of Buenos Aires.

Mauricio Macri - President of Argentina

  • He declared a Merrill Lynch bank account in the United States with US$2.9 million in 2007 and US$1.9 million in the same account in 2008. Macri also declared US$158,000 in foreign assets in 2008, but did not specify their source or location.


{ 7 }  Ayad Allawi (Vice President of Iraq: 2014 – 2015)

  • Until its dissolution in 2013, his Panama-registered company I.M.F. Holdings Inc., owned a house in Kingston upon Thames, England. As of April 2013 the property appeared under the name of Allawi and had an estimated value of about US$1.5 million.

Ayad Allawi - Vice President of Iraq (2014 - 2015)

  • Allawi’s other offshore company, Moonlight Estates Limited, also held a property in London on his behalf. However, documents for this BVI-registered entity identify the source of funds as personal savings.


{ 8 }  Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (President of U.A.E & Emir of Abu Dhabi: 2000 – Present)

  • One of the world’s wealthiest men, Sheikh Khalifa owns at least 30 companies established in the British Virgin Islands by Mossack Fonseca, through which he held commercial and residential properties such as Kensington and Mayfair in London – worth at least US$1.7 billion.

Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan - Emir of Abu Dhabi

  • By December 2015, almost all the shares in those companies were held by Mossack Fonseca through trust structures, but the true beneficiary remained the Sheikh, as well as his wife, son and daughter.


{ 9 }  Pavlo Lazarenko (Prime Minister of Ukraine: 1996 – 1997)

  • Once named one of the world’s most corrupt politicians by Transparency International, Lazarenko was convicted of money laundering in Switzerland in June 2000 and convicted of money laundering in the United States in 2004 and sentenced to 9 years in prison,later reduced to 97 months.

Pavlo Lazarenko - Prime Minister of Ukraine (1996 - 1997)

  • He was so corrupt that even British Virgin Islands police served 3 search warrants on his BVI-registered Metalsrussia Corp Ltd. and Southeast Asia Metal Limited. Authorities are still seeking US$250 million from his offshore accounts.


{ 10 }  Li Xiaolin (daughter of former Chinese Premier Li Peng)

  • The second child and only daughter of Li Peng, Miss Li was the vice president of China Power Investment Corporation, a state-run power company. She has been called China’s “Power Queen.”

Li Xiaolin (daughter of former Chinese Premier Li Peng)

  • Together with her husband Liu Zhiyuan, they incorporated Cofic Investments Ltd in the British Virgin Islands. The source of funds was stated as business profits from exportof heavy machinery from Europe to China.


{ 11 }  Kojo Annan (son of former U.N. head Kofi Annan)

  • The only son of former U.N. head Kofi Annan, Mr. Kojo courted controversy in 1998, when a firm of his won a big contract under the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food humanitarian program in Iraq.

Kofi Annan (former U.N. Secrtary) and son Kojo Annan

  • Internal Mossack Fonseca documents show Koji Annan has held several offshore shell companies, using one to purchase a US$500,000 apartment in central London.


{ 12 }  Mohd Nazifuddin bin Mohd Najib (son of Prime Minister of Malaysia)

  • Nazifuddin was infamous for his link to uFun Group in 2015, a Thailand company with more than 10 offices worldwide and members from more than 80 countries. It turned out to be a Ponzi scheme, allegedly swindled 120,000 people of at least 38 billion baht(US$1.13 billion, £720 million, RM4 billion)

Najib Razak (Prime Minister of Malaysia) and son Nazifuddin

  • Nazifuddin denied allegations he was involved. In 2009 Nazifuddin became one of the directors of Jay Marriot International Ltd. and PCJ International Venture Limited, which Mossack Fonseca registered in the British Virgin Islands. His father is facing allegations of corruption and money laundering to the tune of US$1 billion.


Above are just some of world leaders and their children who hit the headlines after the explosive Panama Papers leaks. Associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin were also exposed secretly shuffled as much as US$2 billion through banks and shadow companies. China’s President Xi Jinping and the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron were also being mentioned.


In total, at least 29 billionaires featured in Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s 500 richest people, 12 current and former world leaders and 128 more politicians and public officials around the world – including Syrian President Bashar Assad, former Egyptian President Mubarak and former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Panama Papers - Lionel Messi, Aishwarya Rai, Jacky Chan

Movie stars included Bollywood’s Amitabh Bachchan, actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and even Jackie Chan have been exposed to owning offshore companies. Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi owns a shell company along with his father – Mega Star Enterprises – which was previously unknown to Spanish investigators probing the Barcelona forward’s tax affairs.


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