The Panama Papers database is now live, giving access to hundreds of thousands of offshore company names to anyone with Internet access. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists announced previously that it planned to release the database today.
The wealthy named and shamed in the Panama Papers
The leaked documents came from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm based in Panama that specializes in setting up offshore accounts for people in known tax havens around the world. Although a long list of names said to be found in the Panama Papers has already been leaked online, the database that’s being posted today will enable anyone to actually search for companies or people by name to find out if they are mentioned in the papers.
So far hundreds of celebrities, politicians, government officials, and other famous people have been named as being mentioned in the Panama Papers. Among those who have been reported to be in the Panama Papers are U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, three children of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, film director Pedro Almodovar of Spain, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and movie legend Jackie Chan.
Massive database release… not a data dump
The BBC notes that it’s not illegal to create offshore entities like Mossack Fonseca does, and the firm says it is not guilty of any wrongdoing. However, often such entities are used for the purpose of dodging taxes in the person’s home country and/ or concealing where money comes from and whose money it is. The Panama Papers leak includes at least 2.6 terabytes of data organized in 11.5 million documents that were leaked to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung over a year ago. The newspaper later granted access to the ICIJ.
The ICIJ said the database that’s being posted online today will reportedly include more than 200,000 entities set up by Mossack Fonseca in over 20 of the world’s most well-known tax havens. The organization also insisted that the database will not be a data dump like what Wikileaks does regularly. It won’t include bank account or financial transaction records, correspondence, passports or phone numbers.
The person who leaked the Panama Papers, who only goes by the name “John Doe,” issued a statement last week stating that his motive for leaking the documents was “income equality.” Also today, hundreds of economists signed a letter to world leaders urging them to put an end to tax havens, which only enable wealthy people and multinational companies to avoid paying taxes and increase income inequality. Oxfam organized the letter.