The Panama Papers scandal promises to deepen around the world today when a journalists’ group with access to the digital cache of documents is to put many of them online.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is to release the documents in a searchable database at 1800 GMT today accessible to the public at offshoreleaks.icij.org.
The US-based organisation said the release “will not be a ‘data dump'” of the sort the Wikileaks group became known for. But it will reveal names and information on 200,000 offshore entities set up by wealthy individuals around the world.
The documents are from 2.6 terabytes of data given to a German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, over a year ago by an anonymous source using the name “John Doe.” The data came from nearly four decades of digital archives of one Panamanian law firm specialized in creating and running offshore entities, Mossack Fonseca, which says its computer records were hacked from abroad.
The German newspaper gave access to the trove to the ICIJ, and through it to hundreds of journalists in different countries. Reports thus far have focused on scores of high-profile individuals: political leaders, celebrities and a few criminals.
– Iceland’s prime minister was forced to resign when his name was linked to an offshore company.
– British Prime Minister David Cameron ended up admitting he profited from an offshore firm started by his father.
– Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest circle was named in the revelations, prompting Putin to claim the Panama Papers was a US plot against him.
– Argentine President Mauricio Macri was also linked to offshore companies.
– China censored media and online social networks from mentioning links between the families of Chinese leaders with offshore entities.
– Other notable people made uncomfortable by the documents include Argentine football star Lionel Messi, Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan and Spanish movie director Pedro Almodovar.
Mossack Fonseca on Thursday issued a “cease and desist” lawyer to the US-based ICIJ, saying putting up the information publicly would violate attorney-client privilege. But there is no sign of the ICIJ calling off the online database.
The organisation says it is important the public be able to look at information on any offshore company in the Panama Papers. “We think that information about who owns the company should be public and transparent,” Marina Walker Guevara, deputy director of the ICIJ, told CNN.