The story of the Panama Papers, an international exposé of corruption that was made public last week and continues to dominate headlines, actually began brewing last year. An anonymous tipster reached out to two German newspaper writers, providing a mystery offer to provide data.
What the journalists reportedly received was reams of information linking world leaders, celebrities and organizations to offshore bank accounts and other shady (and in many cases, illegal) financial and political dealings. As the details of these so-called Panama Papers were finally revealed, it seemed almost anyone could be named or somehow connected to the bombshell allegations.
The scandal is huge, and still growing. As a measure of the story’s internet presence, Wikipedia already has a lengthy page devoted to ‘Panama Papers,’ representing countless allegations and a listing of countries involved. But if you’ve somehow missed the news for the past week and aren’t familiar with the Panama Papers, the best place to start is Germany’s the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which received the anonymous tips and eventually broke the story. As they explained:
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. These shell companies enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady.
In the months that followed, the number of documents continued to grow far beyond the original leak. Ultimately, SZ acquired about 2.6 terabytes of data, making the leak the biggest that journalists had ever worked with. The source wanted neither financial compensation nor anything else in return, apart from a few security measures.
The data provides rare insights into a world that can only exist in the shadows. It proves how a global industry led by major banks, legal firms, and asset management companies secretly manages the estates of the world’s rich and famous: from politicians, Fifa officials, fraudsters and drug smugglers, to celebrities and professional athletes.
Since then, the story has spread and branched out in different directions. Among some of the angles covered by the media:
- According to an article on CNN.com, the German reporters who received the information used nail polish, among other things, to keep the information secret.
- A well-known Swiss whistleblower claims the CIA is behind the leak of the Panama Papers, as reported by CNBC.
- A Sky News report discusses the alleged offshore accounts of 12 world leaders exposed through the Panama Papers.
- According to TIME, police have raided the headquarters of law firm Mossack Fonseca, the source of the document leak, in Panama City.
- A piece by NPR explores how works of art – by Picasso and other iconic painters, for example – are among the assets that have been secretly bought and sold by shell companies and their operators in the Panama Papers scandal.
And that’s only a few of the latest stories to come across the Internet. With so many angles to cover, and more developing, the corruption exposé spurred by the release of the Panama papers will only continue to grow. Stay tuned as more news is released, and world leaders, business figures and companies continue to squirm, hoping their names don’t appear in any incriminating documents.