Loinel Messi, Annan, World Leaders, Power Brokers, Ibori Fingered In Panama Papers Tax Evasion Scheme
World's football player of the Year, Lionel Messi, and Former Governor of Nigeria’s Delta state, James Ibori, have been fingered alongside over 140 politicians in the leaked 'Panama Papers' tax evasion scheme.
The Panama Papers is one of the biggest leaks of confidential documents and largest collaborative investigations in journalism history which has revealed how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth.
On Sunday, more than a hundred media outlets around the world, coordinated by the Washington, DC-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, released stories on the Panama Papers, a gargantuan collection of leaked documents exposing a widespread system of global tax evasion.
The leak contains eleven million documents which includes more than 4.8 million emails, 3 million database files, and 2.1 million PDFs from one of the world’s most secretive companies, Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and shows how Mossack Fonseca has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid tax.
The documents fingers 140 politicians from more than 50 countries including 12 current or former heads of state and at least 60 people linked to current or former world leaders, their associates, ministers, elected officials etc and connected to offshore companies in 21 tax havens.
Icelandic Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugson, Saudi Arabian monarch King Salmannamed, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, former Prime Minister of Iraq Ayad Allawi, Father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, son of former United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan, Nephew of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma and a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring involving close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin are some of the names mentioned.
The company says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and has never been charged with criminal wrong-doing.
“Allegations that we provide structures supposedly designed to hide the identity of the real owners, are completely unsupported and false.
“We do not provide beneficiary services to deceive banks. It is difficult, not to say impossible, not to provide banks with the identity of final beneficiaries and the origin of funds.”
The data also contain secret offshore companies linked to the families and associates of Egypt’s former President, Hosni Mubarak, former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Several other prominent businessmen, celebrities and sports stars were also named in the leak, including a top member of the ethics committee of soccer's scandal-hit world governing body FIFA.
Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio, were the ultimate beneficial owners of a Mossack Fonseca-registered company called Mega Star Enterprises, which was set up in 2012 and are both currently on trial in Spain for tax evasion while Ibori is currently in a London jail for crimes related to money laundering.
Founded in 1977, Mossack Fonseca is headquartered in Panama but has a presence in dozens of countries including known tax havens such as Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands and Seychelles. It specializes in helping companies and individuals set up offshore, tax exempt entities, according to its website, and is reportedly the world's fourth largest provider of such services.
Story by David Oputah