Panama Papers: what they are and why you should care

By Kirstin Buick
04 April 2016

Major politicians from all over the world have been implicated. As has a member of the Zuma family.

You may have woken up this morning to find your timeline flooded with stories about The Panama Papers, aka "the biggest leak in history".

Leak of what, though? Financial information. Specifically, some 11.5 million files from the database of super-secretive law firm, Mossack Fonseca, based in (you guessed it) Panama.

The files, sent to German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung by an anonymous source, show the company helped businessmen, politicians and celebrities from all over the world hide their wealth, dodge tax and even launder money.

The treasure trove of information is said to have exposed the "parallel universe of the ultra-rich and ultra powerful", Fusion reports, the "Ashley Madison" of the offshore tax havens.

Why should you care?

Thus far, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak, Libya's former leader Colonel Gaddafi and Syria's president Bashar al-Assad have been implicated.

Even one of SA's own has been linked to the damning leak -- Khulubuse Zuma, SA mining magnate and Jacob Zuma's nephew.

Read more: This is what it’s like to have lunch at Nkandla

Documents show Mossack Fonseca's dealings with Khulubuse relate to his two oilfields in the northeast the Democratic Republic of Congo, allocated to him by DRC President Joseph Kabila himself in a R100 billion deal.

Kabila signed over the fields to Khulubuse's company Caprikat Limited, which was established in the British Virgin Islands.

After the deal, papers show the British Virgin Island tax authorities ordered the law firm to provide them with Khulubuse's details.

However, Mossack Fonseca decided to “end its relationship” with Khulubuse and Caprikat soon after.

Twelve national leaders who were named in the data leak

1. President of Argentina Mauricio Macri

2. King of Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud

3. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko

4. Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson

5. UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

6. Former prime minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili

7. Ex-prime minister of Iraq Ayad Allawi

8. Former prime minister of Jordan Ali Abu al-Ragheb

9. Former prime minister of Qatar Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani 10. Former Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani 11. Former president of Sudan Ahmad Ali al-Mirghani 12. Convicted former Ukraine prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko

Above: Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson responds to questioning about his dealings with Mossack Fonseca.

So what?

If you couldn't care less about the dodgy dealings of politicians, this might interest you -- soccer superstar Lionel Messi's name also cropped up in the files (in connection with a shell company he owns with his father, Mega Star Enterprises).

Suspended UEFA chief Michel Platini also made an appearance in the data, which shows the embattled soccer official may have looked to Mossack Fonseca to help him manage a company created in Panama in 2007.

The emails, financial spreadsheets, passports and corporate records that make up the leaked files show that more than 500 banks have worked with Mossack Fonseca to help their clients "manage" their offshore funds.

For a more detailed look at the leak, visit the website for The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who worked with Süddeutsche Zeitung on the report.

Sources: The Guardian, BBC, News24, The Metro, Mail Online

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