by Graham Pierrepoint
While the idea of a ‘data leak’ has become somewhat of a news staple in recent years thanks to the exploits made by hackers and hacktivists alike, April 2016 has so far seen what has arguably been the biggest – and potentially the most globally sensitive – data leak in recorded history. While the activities of hackers and whistleblowers such as Wikileaks, the associated Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have seen much in the way of negative data and information released to the public, the so-called Panama Papers are only so huge based on the people – and governments – that are implicated. But what do they leak, exactly – and why is it such a big deal?
The data in question has been leaked from Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s largest offshore law bodies, and it was obtained by German press who later offered findings to the International Consortium of International Journalists, who in turn offered such details to the media. The details that have been leaked essentially identify hundreds of people – some twelve being world leaders – that have taken advantage of offshore tax investment. The national leaders of nations as diverse as Iceland, Pakistan and Ukraine are directly involved, while a trail of associations is stated to lead at least $2 billion in investment money to the door of Russia’s Vladimir Putin – although his name is not explicitly mentioned in any material that has been leaked.
The leak also impacts the UK – in that it has been revealed that the father of Prime Minister David Cameron invested money in a tax haven abroad with paperwork administrated by residents of The Bahamas. Alaa Mubarak, son of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is also implicated in the papers – as are a number of high profile entertainers and personalities, including actor Jackie Chan, pop music mogul Simon Cowell, iconic director Stanley Kubrick and Sarah Ferguson, the former Duchess of York.
Over 2.5 terabytes of data and 11.5 million documents have been leaked relating to Mossack Fonseca’s records, making it the biggest data reveal by a long chalk, dwarfing any data that Wikileaks and Edward Snowden had made public previously.
While the act of using offshore tax havens is not illegal, the reveals have come at a time when the world is still recovering from economic downturn, and at a time where the UK government recently advised that they intend to set up a central register in an effort to wipe out potentially criminal activity via anonymous companies. Both David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have previously expressed a desire to make such offshore actions more transparent – and in the current political climate it will be difficult for many to stomach why so many high profile and wealthy businesspeople and heads of state continue to invest abroad without taxation. The leaks, if anything, will continue to cause ructions in governments and business worldwide, while it may also lead a number of figures to even reconsider their options for investment in future.
Follow the latest media coverage about the Panama Papers here on One News Page.