Index.hu reports that 11.5 million documents about offshore companies was leaked on Sunday from a law firm in Panama. The documents were acquired by a German daily newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung. In processing them 370 journalists of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists from 76 countries were involved. Direkt36 participated in the work from Hungary. Among others, Vladimir Putin, Lionel Messi and dozens of Hungarian or Hungary-related companies and individuals are affected.
The investigation lasted for a year during which the journalists interviewed experts, investigators, searched for information in company documents, databases and title deeds until the files became revealed. It were offshore bank accounts from 1977 to 2015 that were indicated in them, and they showed how illegal money moves through the global financial system. Furthermore, the files show that the banks, law firms and other participants of the offshore businesses do not care about their clients avoiding taxpaying, using them for money-laundering, or being simply criminals, even though they are supposed to investigate these things out by law.
The law firm, Mossack Fonseca has branch offices in several different countries around the world and has been one of the biggest companies providing offshore services. The documents leaked contain information about 215 thousand offshore companies. The Guardian wrote that, although Putin’s name is not included in the documents companies related to his family and friends have benefited from the offshore actions and gained about 2 billion dollars. The Kremlin declared that these are deceiving information that only serve the purpose to attack Putin and his friends. The files, however, also showed how Sergey Roldugin, cello player and one of Putin’s best friends, or Yuri Kovalcsuk of Rossiya Bank, made their wealth. Kovalcsuk, for instance, invested at least 1 billion dollars in a company called Sandalwood, through which many offshore businesses were financed, writes Index.
Furthermore, offshore activities of dozens of companies and individuals from Hungary or related to Hungary were revealed by the files as well. Direkt36 found the name of Zsolt Horváth, former member of Fidesz, who used to represent Kecskemét in the Parliament for 16 years. Index says that Horváth’s wealth declaration does not report about big savings, but back in 2013 – during his political career – he became the director of the company Excelle Media International, on the Seychelles. This information, though, is not indicated in his declaration either. Later, when he left politics he became involved in another company on the Seychelles, the Mayer & Collins Trading Company. The leaking of such information was especially unpleasant for Fidesz, as earlier they have criticized people linked to offshore companies and promised to “end the world of the offshore-knights” (term introduced by the PM).
Shockingly, it also turned out that the Mossack Fonseca helped companies and people in the US who had previously made deals with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations and North-Korea, hiding their money as well. Aside Putin, companies related to the family of the President of China, Hszi Csin-ping, are included in the documents as well. Also, the leak showed that the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko had interests in offshore businesses, too. Even, the late father of David Cameron British PM is said to have had been involved. Index made the point that, interestingly, all three of the aforementioned politicians are leaders of the fight against corruption in their countries.
Moreover, it was revealed that Petro Damiani, member of the ethics committee of FIFA was in business with three men, who were earlier accused of corruption. Lionel Messi, Argentinian footballer and his father became now also regarded as owners of the offshore company Mega Star Enterprise Inc. Another celebrity displayed by the files is Jackie Chan, who is claimed to be related to six companies. In addition, 29 billionaires off Forbes’ list of the 500 richest people are in the documents as well.
The offshore bank accounts were used to hide money by the law firm’s clients who were also interested in the African diamond trade, art treasures and further mysterious businesses. The firm provided help for Mohamed VI, king of Morocco, Salman, king of Saud and the current PM of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and his wife, who kept millions of dollars in Icelandic state bonds through offshore companies, while the bank system of Iceland was said to have played a significant role in the crash of the world economy.
Ramón Fonseca, co-founder of Mossack Fonseca claimed in an interview that their firm does not support committing crimes, and such assumptions are groundless. Furthermore, he said that the firm holds no responsibility for what its clients do through the companies established with their help.
Copy editor: bm