The Shell Game: Exposing Americans in the Panama Papers
The Panama Papers is the largest ever leak of secure data. The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung received a large amount of encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based company that sells offshore shell companies to wealthy clients. The secure documents have been called the “Panama Papers” which contain copies of emails, PDFs, and photo files from the secretive law firm located in Panama.
The Atlantic reports that Süddeutsche Zeitung shared the information with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 news outlets in nearly 80 countries. Almost 400 journalists have combed through the documents over the past year.
How big is this leak? It amounts to approximately 11.5 million documents—or 2.6 terabytes’ worth of data—on 214,000 shell companies spanning a few decades.
Some of the world’s more elusive billionaires are being exposed up in the Panama Papers. The leak exposes the money trail left by the wealthy who use shell companies to hide their cash from prying governments and competitors. World leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Icelandic Prime Minister reportedly have information regarding their financial dealings within the Panama Papers.
Thousands are calling for the Icelandic Prime Minister to resign.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) April 4, 2016
Creating and using shell companies is not illegal, unless the purpose is to hide money to avoid paying taxes or launder dirty money from criminal activities.
Where are the Americans in the Panama Papers?
While wealthy people around the world are being exposed in this massive data leak, few American names are arising in the wake of the Panama Papers. Many people are wondering; where are the Americans? The United States contains many of the world’s wealthiest people, some of whom would like to hide their money from the IRS or ex-spouses.
The answer lies in the fact that Americans do not have to go offshore to create a shell company. Many states like Nevada, Delaware, and Wyoming allow entities to form shell companies. They can create a new company in name only to mask their ownership of the money and cover their transactions. It can be as easy as going to LegalZoom to form a LLC.
In fact, it is reported that many of the Panama Papers discoveries show that they set up US shell companies due to lax regulations within America.
European laws that make it difficult to create these financial schemes which explains why the Panama Papers may contain money from these countries.
Many Americans are hoping to find names like George Soros, Hillary Clinton, or even Donald Trump within these leaked documents. As researchers continue to dig through the mountain of documents, people may be disappointed learning there is no smoking gun.
The Clinton Foundation has been questioned at by the media for its foreign donations. The foundation was investigated by the New York Times for Clinton’s role in the sale of United States uranium mines to the Russians during her time as Secretary of State. Donald Trump has been involved in numerous bankruptcy proceedings that hurt many small businesses. His Trump University scandal has lead to an active lawsuit. Trump University sales company was also sued for waterboarding an employee to enroll more students in the fake college.
George Soros has been accused of funding the Panama Papers research project through his Open Society Foundation. Is it possible that Soros exposed the Panama Papers to hurt his billionaire rivals overseas? if the Panama Papers was an American funded venture, there may be plenty of world’s wealthy lining up to support Trump against Soros backed Hillary in the 2016 general election as retribution for the leak. Vladimir Putin has already signaled his support for Trump, perhaps he knew all along what Soros was up to.