It sounds like a storyline straight out of “Mr. Robot.” The Internet was abuzz Monday with the revelations from a massive document leak that sheds light on the offshore financial activities of world leaders, celebrities, athletes and other public figures.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung led an investigative effort involving more than 100 other news organizations into what has been billed as the largest document leak in history. The data from the powerful but low-profile global law firm Mossack Fonseca, headquartered in Panama, encompasses some 11.5 million documents offering details on the inner-workings of 214,000 offshore companies tied to hundreds of elites in more than 200 countries.
Among the prominent targets of the investigation are Russian President Vladimir Putin. The documents detail how Putin shuffled some $2 billion through various offshore banks and shell companies over the years, according to the ICIJ. The documents span from the 1970s through the end of 2015.
The documents appear to contain information on the financial dealings of thesp Jackie Chan, Cirque du Soleil director Franco Dragone, Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan and his daughter-in-law, film star Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, although the report emphasizes that there is nothing illegal per se about setting up an offshore holding company.
Also on the list, according to TV station La Sexta, are Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and his brother Agustín, both of whom said they have already updated their tax situation.
“The Panama Papers expose offshore companies controlled by the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the king of Saudi Arabia and the children of the president of Azerbaijan. They also include the names of at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the U.S. government because of evidence that they’ve done business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or rogue nations, including North Korea and Iran,” the ICIJ said in announcing the publication.
The ICIJ said the investigation was conducted by 370 journalists from nearly 80 countries, including 31 in the U.S. News organizations associated with the report include BBC Panorama, Le Monde, Univision, Columbia University, Fusion, the Miami Herald, the Charlotte Observer, the Toronto Star, the Irish Times and Panama’s La Prensa. There is no word on the source of the documents or whether there are plans to make them broadly available online a la WikiLeaks’ efforts.
Fusion said it will air an hourlong documentary April 17 about the leak and the information gleaned from the mountain of documents.
The ICIJ published extensive information and data on Monday and promised to divulge more details next month.
The Panama Papers cache adds to the growing list of massive document leaks enabled by the global interconnectivity of digital networks. The threat of damaging data breaches spilling out online through massive hacks of confidential information has become fodder for Hollywood thrillers of late, from Showtime’s “Homeland” to USA Networks’ “Mr. Robot.”
The real-life drama of cyber-security vulnerabilities hit home in 2014 for Sony Pictures Entertainment when the studio became the target of a WikiLeaks-like document dump reportedly inflicted by a group tied to North Korea in protest of the studio’s Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy “The Interview,” which skewered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. More than 18 months later Sony is still in recovering information and network functions lost or compromised in the November 2014 breach, and many of those stolen files remain readily accessible online.
(Pictured: Vladimir Putin)