From British Prime Minister to Ukrainian president to Formula One driver ; All of which deny wrongdoing associated with offshore accounts.
World leaders and international celebrities are on the defensive after leaked documents from a Panama-based law firm showed how the world’s rich and powerful are able to avoid taxes by stashing their wealth offshore.
The documents, dating as far back as 1977, come from the little-known but highly influential law firm Mossack Fonseca, which has 500 staff working in 40-plus countries. The firm is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies — corporate structures that can be used to hide ownership of assets.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, obtained the files from a source and shared them with global media partners, through the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Celebrities, World Leaders Secrets Revealed, Who are they?
Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson – Iceland
A New Prime Minister for Iceland?
Iceland is now seeking for a new Prime Minister in line with the Panama-based law firm leaked document. The country has suffered further political fallout from the documents, with the government hoping to avoid early elections by trying to pick a prime minister to replace previous PM, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.
PM Gunnlaugsson stepped down after the documents showed his wife owned an offshore company that held millions of dollars’ worth of debt from failed Icelandic banks.
Gunnlaugsson has said his wife’s assets were taxed in Iceland, but the opposition has accused him of a conflict of interest because his government was negotiating deals with claimants on the banks. However, it was not clear whether the Prime Minister’s wife had received any payment from the banks.
Icelanders, already angry with the financial and political elite after the 2008 banking crisis wrecked the country’s economy, were expected return to the streets on Wednesday. Protesters pelted parliament with yogurt and eggs earlier this week.
British Prime Minister David Cameron – Britain
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Mossack Fonseca’s Leaked Document
British Prime Minister David Cameron is in question about his finances because his late father was among the tens of thousands of people named in the documents from Mossack Fonseca.
After having at first described it as a private matter, Cameron’s office said on Tuesday that he and his family did not benefit from any such funds at present. Cameron also said he did not own any shares or have any offshore funds.
But his failure to say whether he or his family would benefit in the future only intensified media speculation, with the story splashed across many newspaper front pages on Wednesday.
A spokesman for Cameron said on Wednesday said, “There are no offshore funds or trusts which the prime minister, Mrs. Cameron or their children will benefit from in future”.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
I’m not avoiding taxes – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
Among those named in Mossack Fonseca’s documents are friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the leaders of China, Britain and Pakistan, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
The Ukrainian President said he set up an offshore trust to separate his business and political interests after he became president and the arrangements were carried out with full transparency.
He said he was not trying to minimize tax payments.
“There does not need to be an investigation,” Poroshenko told reporters in Tokyo, when asked about the planned investigation by Ukraine’s fiscal services.
Nico Rosberg – F1 driver
Nico Rosberg’s lawyer, Christian Schertz, says the Formula One driver used an offshore company solely for liability reasons and to enable him to operate internationally.
German public broadcaster NDR has reported that Mossack Fonseca manages a company called Ambitious Group Ltd. which has a contract with Mercedes for Rosberg’s “driver services.”
Schertz says British Virgin Islands-registered Ambitious Group wasn’t used for tax avoidance.
Amitabh Bachchan – India’s top Bollywood actor
Amitabh Bachchan, India’s top Bollywood actor is also listed in Mossack Fonseca’s document. However, the actor has denied any connection to four shipping companies registered in tax havens. He was responding to a report published Monday by the Indian Express newspaper based on the Panama Papers.
Bachchan said he did not know any of the companies he was allegedly linked to and has never been a director for any of them.
Konrad Mizzi – Malta health and energy minister
Malta’s health and energy minister is also under fire after being named in the Panama-based law firm’s leaked document. Mizzi is facing calls for his resignation.
Konrad Mizzi, who is also deputy leader of the governing Labour Party, has acknowledged owning a company in Panama which is held by a trust in New Zealand.
However, Mizzi insists that the leaked documents make no reference to him holding any funds in Panama. He said he has commissioned an independent tax audit to prove that he’s done nothing wrong, and that the company in Panama “will be closed soon after the tax investigation is concluded.”
The opposition Nationalist Party is holding a protest to press for Mizzi’s resignation on Sunday.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has stood by his minister, but said he will dismiss him if it emerges that what Mizzi is saying is untrue.
Marine Le Pen – France’s Front National Party Leader
France’s far-right National Front party is filing lawsuits for defamation against media who imply that it or leader Marine Le Pen — who plans to run in the 2017 presidential race — may be implicated in the Panama Papers scandal.
Party lawyer David Dassa-Le Deist issued a statement Wednesday saying defamation proceedings “have been started on this day.”
The statement did not name the media being targeted. However, it noted the daily Le Monde’s article Tuesday looking into alleged offshore dealings by a longtime Le Pen acquaintance whose company provides publicity for electoral campaigns. The paper also examined potential but unproven offshore interests of Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, via a former employee.
The party said its filing defamation suits in defense of its leader Marine Le Pen against media outlets looking to implicate her in the Panama Papers scandal.