German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) has released the Panama Papers, the biggest leak in the history of data journalism, publishing online 11.5 million documents equaling 2.6 terabytes, from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which showed how hundreds of thousands of people, including world leaders, celebrities, athletes, FIFA officials and criminals hid money using anonymous shell corporations across the world.
The Panamanian law firm, regarded as one of the world’s most secretive companies, according to the documents, has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax.
“Over a year ago, an anonymous source contacted the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and submitted encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that sells anonymous offshore companies around the world,” SZ noted. “These shell firms enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady.”
SZ obtained further documents in an investigation involving “400 journalists from more than 100 media organizations in over 80 countries.” It analyzed the data in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian provider of offshore companies is at the centre of the stories that make up the Panama papers. It has dozens of offices all over the world and sells its shell firms in cities such as Zurich, London, and Hong Kong. These firms sometimes go at bargain prices, with an anonymous company going for as little as $1,000. “For an extra fee, Mossack Fonseca provides a sham director and, if desired, conceals the company’s true shareholder,” SZ reveals.
Abdeslam Bouchouareb was named in the Panama papers. He’s a member of Parliament in Algeria and the country’s current minister of industry and mines. Bouchouareb has been the sole owner of the Panamanian company Royal Arrival Corp., which was created in April 2015, since July 2015. The company is said to be used for business activities in Turkey, the United Kingdom and Algeria.
Through this company, Bouchouareb held a Swiss bank account at NBAD Private Bank SA. He managed Royal Arrival Corp. via a Luxembourg company, Compagnie d’Etude et de Conseil (CEC).
A Luxembourg financial firm that set up the company for Bouchouareb, confirmed his ownership. However, it noted that it “was constituted in all transparency” and was only set up to own and manage inherited property. According to the company, because of Bouchouareb’s ministerial position, “We, with his agreement, decided to delay any use of the company, and the opening of the bank account at NBAD Geneva was never finalized…Mr. Bouchouareb asked us to freeze this company for the duration of his public mandates.”
José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos has served as Angola’s Minister of Petroleum since 2008. He earlier served in the same position from 1999 to 2002.
In 2002, he was named one of two individuals who had power of attorney for Medea Investments Limited, a company incorporated on September 13, 2001 in Niue, and puts its own value at $1 million. The company moved to Samoa in 2006 but was inactivated on Feb. 16, 2009. While in Niue and also Samoa, the company was held by “bearer” shares, which belong to the individual who physically holds them, making it easier to obscure ownership.
José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos was contacted repeatedly to comment on the allegations. He never responded.
Ian Stuart Kirby has served as president of the Court of Appeal in Botswana since 2010. He was Botswana’s deputy attorney general from 1990 to 2000 and served as a High Court judge from 2000 until late 2003, when he became attorney general. Kirby was lead counsel for a commission that led to the creation of Botswana’s Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime.
His name came up as one of dozens of shareholders of seven British Virgin Islands companies, including as a shareholder of Bellbrook Estates Limited (May 2005), while he was attorney general of Botswana. The company undertook unspecified activities in the United Kingdom, according to a 2014 list by Mossack Fonseca of active companies for which it served as registered agent.
When contacted, Kirby said that the companies were special purpose vehicles formed by a joint venture to acquire, develop and resell a particular property in the UK, as an investment. According to him, he and his wife were persuaded to invest in the companies. In hopes of receiving a return on investment, they chose the minimum allowed. “One or two have worked out, but most not, because the worldwide recession intervened. Overall we have lost most of our investment,” he said. However, the couple, Kirby said, retained an interest in only two of the companies, one of which they hope will allow them to recover their investment and the other of which they hope may provide a modest profit.
Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua is a Congolese politician who has served in the government of Congo-Brazzaville as Minister of Scientific Research since 2011. Previously he was Director-General of the National Oil Company of Congo (Société Nationale des Pétroles du Congo, SNPC) from 1998 to 2005 and Minister of Energy and Hydraulics from 2005 to 2011.
Itoua was in 2003 implicated in a massive diversion of SNPC funds. One of Congo’s creditors accused Itoua and the SNPC of conspiring to “divert oil revenues … into the pockets of powerful Congolese public officials.” After a U.S. federal appeals court ruled in 2007 that American courts did not have jurisdiction over the suit against the SNPC because it was a government agency, the creditor did not pursue its case against Itoua.
While he was energy adviser to the President of the Republic of Congo and CEO of SNPC, Itoua had power of attorney to represent two offshore companies. Denvest Capital Strategies Inc., based in the British Virgin Islands, and Grafin Associated SA, based in Panama, had previously issued unregistered shares which belong to the person who physically holds them. The companies became inactive in 2006 and 2007 respectively, Mossack Fonseca’s records show.
Requests for comments were denied by Itoua.
Jaynet Désirée Kabila Kyungu is the twin sister of Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is linked with Keratsu Holding Limited, a company incorporated in Niue on June 19, 2001, a few months after her brother became president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She appeared as co-director with Congolese businessman Kalume Nyembwe Feruzi, said to be close to her father Laurent Kabila. The company has owned stakes in one of the DRC’s major mobile phone operators.
Jean-Claude N’Da Ametchi is an associate of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who was sanctioned by the European Union in 2011, for allegedly helping to fund the “illegitimate administration” of Gbagbo. A civil war broke out in the West African country after Gbagbo refused to accept his defeat in the 2010 presidential elections. About 3,000 people were killed in the conflict.
Cadley House Ltd., registered in the Seychelles in 2006, was at first held through so-called bearer shares, which do not list an offshore company’s owner, but emails confirm that the firm belonged to N’Da Ametchi. The company’s purpose was described as “management of personal assets…[and] ownership of a bank account in the Principality of Monaco.”
Alaa Mubarak is the son of former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. He owned the British Virgin Islands firm Pan World Investments Inc., managed by Credit Suisse. In 2011, the year his father resigned the Egyptian presidency and was arrested alongside Alaa and his brother Gamal, BVI authorities told Mossack Fonseca to freeze Pan World’s assets, an order prompted by a European Union law.
The men were last May sentenced to three years in jail for embezzling millions of dollars in state funds intended for the renovation of palaces. Although a Cairo criminal court had last October released Alaa and his brother, acknowledging the time they served in jail since their arrests, they still face trial on charges of insider trading.
John Addo Kufuor is the son of John Agyekum Kufuor In early 2001, shortly after the start of his father’s first presidential term, Kufuor appointed Mossack Fonseca to manage The Excel 2000 Trust. Later that year, it controlled a bank account in Panama worth $75,000. His mother – Theresa Kufuor, then-Ghana’s first lady – was also a beneficiary.
The leaked files also connected Kufuor with BVI companies Fordiant Ltd and Stamford International Investments Group Limited. Both were registered when Kufuor’s father was president of Ghana and became inactive in 2004 and 2007.
Kojo Annan is the only son of former United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, who served from 1997 to 2006. He was hired by Swiss company Cotecna in 1995 for work in Nigeria. By early 1998, he had quit to become a consultant to the company. Months later, the United Nations awarded the firm a contract as part of Oil-for-Food humanitarian program in Iraq, prompting allegations of impropriety. Both Kojo and the company have consistently denied allegations of wrongdoing.
Kojo Annan was sole director of the Samoan company Sapphire Holding Ltd, originally incorporated in Niue in 2003, which he had used to buy an apartment (Argyll Mansions) in central London in 2003 for more than $500,000, according to U.K. records. Sapphire Holding used unnamed shareholders until 2015 when Kojo Annan became a listed shareholder with a Ghana address.
Kojo Annan was also a joint shareholder and director of two British Virgin Islands companies incorporated in 2002.
When contacted, a lawyer for Annan said that his companies “operate in accordance with the laws and regulations of the relevant jurisdictions and, insofar tax liabilities arise, they pay taxes in the jurisdictions in which taxes are due to be paid. In other words, any entity and account held by Mr. Annan has been opened solely for normal, legal purposes of managing family and business matters and has been fully disclosed in accordance with applicable laws.”
Mamadie Touré is the widow of Lansana Conté, the former dictator and president of Guinea. Although he was in power from 1984 till his death in 2008, Touré was his fourth wife and only became First Lady in 2000.
Touré was granted the power of attorney to Matinda Partners and Co. Ltd, a British Virgin Islands company, in November 2006. That same year, she began a relationship with a mining company that U.S. authorities alleged had paid her $5.3 million to help it win a disputed mining concession from her husband.
“Touré laundered the bribe payments through the U.S. financial system, making numerous transfers between bank accounts in excess of $10,000,” wrote Alexis J. Loeb, the prosecutor in the case.
Kalpana Rawal is a Kenyan lawyer and a Judge of the Supreme Court of Kenya.
Rawal and her husband were directors of two companies based in the British Virgin Islands before she joined Kenya’s Supreme Court. The family used other offshore companies to buy and sell real estate in London and Surrey.
Rawal said she has not been involved with the family businesses except for generally knowing they were involved in real estate.
She said has never had “any involvement direct or indirect and have no interest or control” in the other companies.
Mounir Majidi became the personal secretary to the King Mohammed VI of Morocco, in 2000. Two years later, the king appointed Majidi to be head of SIGER, the holding company of Morocco’s royal family with stakes in mining, agricultural and telecommunications businesses.
In 2006, Mounir Majidi received power of attorney privileges for SMCD Limited, which was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2005. In January 2006, SMCD Limited authorized the purchase of a luxury 1930s schooner “Aquarius W” and put Majidi in charge of handling the transaction. Renamed “El Boughaz I,” the schooner is now owned by King Mohammed VI. SMCD Limited was also used to make a loan for an unknown purpose to a Luxembourg-based company, Logimed Investments Co., Sàrl. SMCD Limited was liquidated in 2013. Majidi was also administrator of a Luxembourg company called Immobiliere Orion S.A., which borrowed $42 million in 2003 from a Mossack Fonseca-incorporated company to buy and renovate a luxury Paris apartment. It is unclear who owned the company that lent the money.
James Ibori, governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State from 1999 to 2007, pleaded guilty in a London court in 2012 to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences. Ibori admitted using his position as governor to corruptly obtain and divert up to $75 million out of Nigeria through a network of offshore companies, including Julex Foundation. Julex was the shareholder of Stanhope Investments, a company incorporated in Niue in 2003. Ibori was also connected to Financial Advisory Group Ltd. and Hunglevest Corporation.
Emmanuel Ndahiro Ndahiro is a confidant of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, having served as the president’s physician, security adviser and spokesman. He became a director of British Virgin Islands company Debden Investments Limited in September 1998.
Mamadou Pouye is a childhood friend of Karim Wade, who is the son of Senegal’s former President Abdoulaye Wade. Wade was sentenced to six years in jail in March 2015 by a judge who said that Wade had hidden away funds in offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Panama.
Pouye first appeared in Mossack Fonseca’s files in October 2008, instructing the law firm to open a bank account for the Panama company Seabury Inc. Between December 2008 and August 2012, two companies connected to Pouye — the Panamanian Latvae Group, of which he was shareholder, and Seabury, in which his role was unspecified — signed contracts worth about $35 million for consulting and advisory services relating to the port in Senegal’s capital, Dakar.
Clive Khulubuse Zuma is South African President Jacob Zauma’s nephew. He was authorized to represent Caprikat Limited, one of two offshore companies that controversially acquired oil fields in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A spokesman for Fleurette, the owner of the two companies, said “the DRC benefits hugely” from “investment and long-term commitment” and noted “extensive benefits to local communities.” Zuma did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Ahmad Ali al-Mirghani was Sudan’s president from 1986 to 1989 when he was overthrown by a coup.
Al-Mirghani was the owner of the British Virgin Islands company Orange Star Corporation, created in 1995. That same year, Orange Star Corporation purchased a long lease of an apartment in an expensive area of London north of Hyde Park for more than $600,000 . At the time of al-Mirghani’s death, he held assets through the company worth $2.72 million.
Attan Shansonga was ambassador of Zambia to the United States between 2000 and 2002. He was arrested in the Zambian capital of Lusaka in 2002 amid an investigation into the diversion of millions of dollars out of Zambia when President Frederik Chiluba’s was in office. Shansonga fled Zambia in 2004 and, two years later, was accused by the Zambian government of receiving “misappropriated monies” and using offshore accounts to launder the loot.
In 1998, Shansonga became a director of Starflight Ventures Limited, Stacey Investment Holdings Ltd and Debden Investments Limited. The activities of these companies were not revealed. In 2005, Mossack Fonseca received court documents because it was the agent for Hearnville Estates Ltd., a British Virgin Islands-based company named as one of 20 defendants, including Shansonga himself, in a corruption case that the Zambian government pursued in an English court. The company, incorporated in 1998, was allegedly used to purchase apartments in Lusaka with money looted from the Zambian state.
Although Mossack Fonseca’s name is in the middle of all the leaks, and international investigations have pointed to Mossack Fonseca as one of the widest-reaching creators of shell companies in the world, the company says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and has never been charged with criminal wrong-doing.
“If we detect suspicious activity or misconduct, we are quick to report it to the authorities. Similarly, when authorities approach us with evidence of possible misconduct, we always cooperate fully with them,” the law firm said.
Gerard Ryle, director of the ICIJ, however, said the documents covered the day-to-day business at Mossack Fonseca over the past 40 years.
“I think the leak will prove to be probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents,” he said.
The papers also reveals a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring that was run by a Russian bank and involved close associates of President Putin. The data from Mossack Fonseca also shows how Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson had an undeclared interest in his country’s bailed-out banks.
Other top personalities named include Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, King of Saudi Arabia Salman Bin Abdulaziz Bin Abdulrahaman Al Saud and President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, among others.