A massive document leak in Panama has been exposed by journalists who tracked down and revealed 11.5 million records that connect hundreds of thousands of offshore entities to businesspeople, celebrities, sports stars, world leaders, criminals and places around the world – including Israel.
The network was uncovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations, including Haaretz. The documents were reviewed by a team of more than 370 journalists from 76 countries.
Some 600 Israeli firms and 850 Israeli shareholders are found among the 11.5 million records of the obscure but immensely powerful Mossack Fonseca law firm, based in Panama.
Among the Israeli names mentioned in the documents, according to Haaretz, were those of attorney Dov Weisglass, former bureau chief to late prime minister Ariel Sharon, wealthy Israeli Idan Ofer and Israeli African mining industry mogul Jacob Engel. Also mentioned was Bank Hapoalim, which used the Panama law firm for management of various trust funds, up to 2011.
The firm was founded by a German who immigrated with his family after serving in Hitler’s Waffen-SS during World War II. He and his sons built Mossack Fonseca, which told ICIJ that it follows “both the letter and spirit of the law. Because we do, we have not once in nearly 40 years of operation been charged with criminal wrongdoing.”
The firm has branches in more than 35 other locations around the world and has created shell companies to hide assets for top clients, working with more than 14,000 banks, their subsidiaries and branches, law firms, company incorporators and other agents over the years.
The leaked data spans nearly 40 years, from 1977 through the end of 2015, an insider’s look at how personal money flows around the world at the very top of world leadership. Most of the offshore industry services actually are legal, but the documents reveal that shortcuts were taken by banks, law firms and other offshore players in order to ease the way for their mega clients.
The personal financial affairs of at least 12 current and former world leaders were the ‘Panama Papergate’ scandal.
Included among the top leaders were Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson of Iceland, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the kings of Saudi Arabia and Morocco and the children of the president of Azerbaijan.
Offshore companies were also linked to the family of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has vowed to fight ‘armies of corruption” as well as to 128 other international politicians and public officials.
At least 33 of those exposed were blacklisted by the U.S. government, including a firm that supplied fuel for Syrian regime aircraft that bombed and killed thousands of its own citizens, U.S. authorities charged.
The Kremlin pre-empted the report March 28 with charges the journalists’ consortium was preparing an “information attack” against the Russian president and his associates.
Hana Levi Julian