group 4.2

6th March 2019

Panama Papers : The biggest data leak in history

The research for the Panama Papers has been conducted by the ICIJ in collaboration with 100 media outlets due to the fact that there were  2.6 terabytes of data to be analyzed. Since the source has remained anonymous till this day the reliability could be questioned. Mossack Fonseca has not confirmed the leaked data. Obviously since big players are involved, it could be possible that this anonymous source had their own agenda for exposing this, perhaps, misleading data. However, an anonymous source with an agenda falsifying 2.6 terabytes of data is less likely than money moguls and governments engaging into corrupt activities. Here, the distrust from society towards the government dominates the choice to accept the information provided by the anonymous source. Moreover, considering what happened to Edward Snowden, it is not surprising that the source wanted to remain anonymous. Exposing data on such big players could be potentially life-threatening. On the other side, Mossack Fonseca would only do their trial a disfavour by confirming the data and thus their involvement in criminal activities.

The graphs we analyzed tell us where the offshore companies owned by Mossack Fonseca and its clients are located, countries where intermediaries operate, top banks that operated with Mossack Fonseca and other useful information. Moreover, the graphs show where the tax heavens used by the intermediaries are, and which of them were the most used. A useful graph would be the one focusing on the top ten popular tax havens in the Panama Papers, and the graph focuses mainly on showing how The Virgin Islands, one of the most popular tax havens due to their lenient laws, are the main base for the offshore companies, where one out of two companies would be incorporated in these places.

Of the companies that appear in Mossack Fonseca’s files, one out of every two — more than 113,000 — were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. The second favorite jurisdiction was Panama, where the firm is headquartered.

Of the companies that appear in Mossack Fonseca’s files, one out of every two — more than 113,000 — were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. The second favorite jurisdiction was Panama, where the firm is headquartered.

 

The statistics for the Panama Papers can be found on the ICIJ organization webpage and the key figures have been analyzed and turned into graphs by Rigoberto Carvajal, Mar Cabra, Álvaro Ortiz and Fernando Blat.The figures are publicized by the organization along with all the media outlets and journalists that worked together for one year in order to analyze the documents. Here it is important to consider that the final conclusion of the analyzed data is based on a part of the data. Not all people listed were involved in criminal activities. The fact that the data included some major political players such as the Presidents of Argentina, Iceland (whom after the release resigned) and Ukraine, as well as Australia’s prime minister, and celebrities such as Stanley Kubrick, Lionel Messi and Donald Trump – before he became President of the USA-  is why the Panama Papers were of such importance and magnitude.

The Panama Papers research was conducted in order to expose the illegal activities carried out by some companies and public figures and by providing statistics, the numbers show the magnitude of corruption on a global scale. There has always been suspicion from society and journalists of corruption by governmental organizations and political players, the data of the Panama Papers was able to back it up with data. Therefore, this data is seen as reliable, as it is proving those suspicions.

Alternative statistics would be an income gap of the players, a missing governmental budget or a graph dedicated on fraudulent companies . However, these numbers are often not transparent, as they are not revealed by the governments in question. The data of the Panama Papers is therefore a groundbreaking force to expose worldwide corruption. Concluding, the Panama Papers were not only an exposition of political leaders to remove their power or blacklist them, but can also be translated into a social statement. In a way it is just another reassuring fact that the rich are getting richer by exploiting their power and connections, resulting in tax fraud etc. that can affect the less fortunate as a consequence.

Group : Alice Novello, Evelina Butkute, Samson Geboers, Madalina Petre, Nick Kefalas

References

ICIJ. 2018. “Explore the Panama Papers Key Figures.” ICIJ. ICIJ. February 1. https://www.icij.org/investigations/panama-papers/explore-panama-papers-key-figures/.

ICIJ. 2018. “ Panama Papers Law Firm Mossack Fonseca Closes Its Doors”. Icij.org. March 18. https://www.icij.org/investigations/panama-papers/panama-papers-law-firm-mossack-fonseca-closes-doors/

https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article74789322.html