The Panama Papers


It was about 3:00 p.m. (-5 GMT) on a lazy hot Sunday afternoon when the product hit the fan in Panama.  The country was violently shaken to its core by the news published in Germany by the Zuddeutsche Zeitun newspaper.

The paper broke the story of a scandal at a global scale about a Panamanian company identified as Mossack-Fonseca that had organized approximately 214,000 offshore companies scattered in more than 200 countries involved in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, arms sales to Iran and North Korea and tax evasion.  About 500 top banks worldwide were also involved in this scheme.

The publication narrated that 11.5 million documents equivalent to 2.6 terabytes of information were hacked from Mossack-Fonseca main offices in Panama.  The content of the hacked information included financial records, passports, and general correspondence of the corporation’s clients stretching back 40 years.

A group of 107 journalists known as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIV) from 78 countries dug deep into the activities of thousands of offshores companies organized in Panama by Mossack-Fonseca.  More than 100 publications in nearly 80 countries were the results of the investigation which lasted more than three years.

More than 140 offshore acounts were linked to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, the Presidents of South Africa, Syria, China, Ukraine and Russia; and the Prime Minister of Iceland.  The latter resigned from his post shortly after the scandal broke out.  Also top members of FIFA are being investigated as a result of this computer breach.  Allegedly more than 140 political figures, including 12 current or former heads of state hid their cash inside these offshore shell companies.

The scandal is huge; larger than the Wiki-Leaks revealed by Julian Assange and the military leaks revealed by Edward Snowden combined.  Assange is presently confined to the Embassy of Ecuador in London and Snowden is now living in Russia running away from American authorities.

Snowden was responsible for leaking to the media details of extensive Internet and phone surveillance by American intelligence. He has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, and faces espionage charges over his actions in the U.S.

As a fallout of the Panama Papers, France decided to include Panama in a gray list of countries who are not cooperating in providing information about the transparence of offshore companies.  Panama authorities are fighting tooth and nail to persuade France to erase Panama from the list.  The situation is very tense in Panama as more information about the scandal evolves.

On Sunday I visited the premises of Mossack-Fonseca located in an exclusing banking area surrounded by impressive high-rise buildings.  This is what I saw there:

banks1
High-rise building flanking the offices of Mossack-Fonseca headquarted in Panama City, Panama.  Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
banks4
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
banks82
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
banks2
General headquarters of Mossack-Fonseca in Panama City, Panama in the exclusive neighborhood of Marbella.  Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
banks3
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
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Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
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Names of the corporations inside the same building occupied by the Principal Offices of Mossack-Fonseca in Panama City, Panama.  Their name is the penultimate place of the list.  If you look closely you can find it.  Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

Another story of hubris and greed which has placed Panama on its knees.  Which will be the next one?

Good Day!

7 thoughts on “The Panama Papers”

    1. Hello Ana:

      The amount of information hacked is monumental. Most intimate data is available on the Web for anybody to see. The consequences of this scandal are unpredictable.

      Unfortunately your president was in, drinking the Kool Aid. It is a huge embarrassment for our country.

      Regards,

      Omar.-

  1. I’m sorry your country is dealing with this, Omar. It is a terrible situation and the greed of these multi-millionaire people is always astounding or maybe it shouldn’t surprise us any longer. It is completely sad that all that wealth is not helping good causes in the world.

    Your photos are beautiful, though, and I appreciate this post!

    1. Morning Barbara:

      Panama authorities are very concerned that this scandal could shred to pieces our country’s international banking center. Late yesterday, the main offices of Mossack-Fonseca was raided by the police in search of confidendencial documents of offshore companies. Likewise, the office of the company in Peru was also raided as well.

      At this moment Panama is in the eye of the storm—a huge one I might add.

      I went to the site, because I wanted to take pictures on site. This is history in the making. I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures. This building has been seen by the whole world as the story unfolds.

      Regards,

      Omar.-

  2. Hola Omar,
    For years the movies have always mentioned having a “Swiss bank account” as the most secure place to hide the loot. The truth is that Panama’s banking practices have always been more secretive than the Swiss. For that reason, the bad folks with huge amounts of money to hide used Panama banks for their accounts.

    One of the things I noticed about Panama back in the 60’s was the size and number of banks on Central Avenue. I assumed that it was due to the canal traffic and the large amount of international trade that was done there. Later I learned that a large part of the business was handling the money for other businesses. It did not hurt that Panama had US dollars on hand to exchange for any other currency. That was Panama’s “edge” in banking.

    I hope it all gets straightened out but I feel that it may take decades to happen.
    jim

    1. Hola Jim & Nena:

      At ome point in time we had 114 foreign banks domiciled in Panama. I don’t know how many we have now, but have a gut feeling that this scandal will severely affect our international banking system.

      As you know, Panama is not the only country organizing offshore companies in the world. Examples are: United States, Switzerland, Great Britainl, and Hong Kong. There could be others, but I don’t know who they are. The problem in Panama is that we were caught with our pants down.

      I agree. It will take a while to clean this mess.

      Regards,

      Omar.-

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