July 27, 2016

“Panama Papers” leak may have possible implications for Guyana

The map showing the different countries where the secretive law firm Mossack Fonseca has clients

The map showing the different countries where the secretive law firm Mossack Fonseca has clients

Panamanian specialist law firm Mossack Fonseca, the world’s 4th largest provider of offshore services, was on Sunday rocked by what it alleges to be a “hack” that leaked 2.6 Terabytes of data of its confidential documents to the Panama Metropolitan Paper and other news entities.

The leak has since revealed damning information of Heads of States, the elites, business moguls and other parties who were clients of the secretive law firm that created offshore bank accounts to hide their wealth, possibly allowing them to avoid paying their taxes.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) located in Washington said the leaked data spans nearly 40 years from 1977 through the end of 2015, allowing “a never before seen view inside the offshore world – providing a day to day, decade to decade look at how dark money flows through the global financial system, breeding crime and stripping national treasuries of tax revenues.”

Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens. Most popular among them are Russian president Vladimir Putin who has a 2 billion dollar trail leading to him by way of his best friend Sergei Roldugin, who the leak alleges syphoned off the monies of the Russian state bank into a hidden offshore account.

Among national leaders with offshore wealth are Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister; Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president; and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson.

The Iceland Prime Minister, it seems, is in hot water since the leak broke, with over 20,000 civilians protesting in the streets of Iceland calling for his immediate resignation.

Apparently, the leaked records show that Gunnlaugsson co-owned a company set up in 2007 on the Caribbean island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, to hold investments with his wealthy partner whom he later married.

There are possible ramifications for Caribbean countries as well. The Panama Papers reported that the law firm has over 3000 clients in the US and 9000 in the United Kingdom, in addition to other countries. The paper showed a map which highlighted the different clientele countries, with Guyana being significantly highlighted, along with Venezuela, Brazil and other South American countries.

It is too early, however, to tell if any of the information that was leaked has relevance to Guyana since out of the 11.5 million documents only 154 are in the public domain.