The release of the huge trove of data exposing several offshore accounts of world leaders and companies has prompted the Panamanian government to form an international committee of experts to propose ways to improve in the country’s offshore financial industry, the Associated Press (AP) reported Thursday. Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the heart of accusations, has denied any wrongdoing and maintained that its operations have been legal.
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said Wednesday that his country will share the committee’s report with other nations in a bid to take joint action to fortify transparency in legal and financial centers worldwide, the AP reported. He also defended the Central American nation terming the leak as a “media attack” by wealthy countries that he says are overlooking their own drawbacks and unfairly denouncing Panama, the report added.
The leaked documents, dubbed Panama Papers, showed tax details of a number of Mossack Fonseca’s clients in over 11.5 million documents. The papers, with data spanning over nearly 40 years, from 1977 through the end of 2015, revealed that some of the major companies were being used for suspected money laundering, arms and drug deals and tax evasion. The names included close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, father of British Prime Minister David Cameron and soccer star Lionel Messi.
Meanwhile, Jürgen Mossack, co-founder of the Panama-based law firm, reacted sharply to the leak in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. He said that his firm did not do anything wrong — a stance the firm has maintained since the Panama Papers were shared Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
“We’re not going to stop the services and go plant bananas or something,” Mossack, 68 told the Journal. “People do make mistakes. So do we, and so does our compliance department. But that is not the norm.”
Mossack and the head of legal affairs for his law firm, Sara Montenegro, told the newspaper that they were ready for further regulations and scrutiny of their business. However, they stated that they were yet to be contacted directly by local authorities.
“At this point in time I would say there shouldn’t be repercussions,” Mossack said, “but I wouldn’t say that there won’t be any.”
While most of the alleged dealings are said to be legal by ICIJ, the revelations are likely to have a political impact on many of those named, according to reports. In enormity, the ICIJ reportedly said that the Panama Papers surpass WikiLeaks in 2010, which included the disclosure of 500,000 secret military files on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and 250,000 diplomatic cables, angering the United States.
Australia, Austria, France, India, Sweden and the Netherlands were among the several other countries to open investigations following the leak.
On Thursday, Hypo Landesbank Vorarlberg, one of two Austrian lenders mentioned in the leaks, announced that its chief executive would be resigning following the leak, Reuters reported. The decision was triggered by several developments in the past year, including recent media reports, the bank quoted Chief Executive Michael Grahammer as saying. Grahammer reportedly added that he was convinced the bank did not violate any laws or sanctions.
On Wednesday, Swiss police raided Union of European Football Associations, the administrative body for association soccer in Europe, over a Champions League television rights deal signed by Gianni Infantino before he became FIFA president. UEFA made the television rights agreement with two Argentine businessmen who have been charged in the United States over the corruption scandal that hit the soccer world, France 24 reported. Infantino has denied any wrongdoing.