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The Panama Papers have already caused massive political disturbance

The leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca have sent shock waves around the world.

SHOCKWAVES HAVE BEEN sent through political and business elites around the world with the sudden publication of information from the Panama Papers.

The leak has seen 11.5 million tax documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca released, uncovering hidden offshore dealings of around 140 political figures.

In Ireland the Irish Times (who are part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the group responsible for publishing the leaked information) has already published stories on the involvement of Irish businesses and former Fine Gael adviser Frank Flannery.

Already the fallout has seen heads of state from across Europe and the Middle East scrambling to explain their connections to the papers.

Here is what has happened so far…

Iceland

Source: videos hahaha/YouTube

The country’s PM Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson is today facing calls for a general election in parliament after it was revealed that he and his wife had a financial interest in a company called Wintris, an offshore holding company set up on the Caribbean island of Tortola.

After being confronted with allegations of impropriety in a Swedish television interview ahead of the documents being released, Iceland’s PM became flustered and walked out.

The footage has since been widely viewed online.

He and his wife have since issued statements saying their financial interests have always been properly disclosed.

United Kingdom

In the UK, PM David Cameron – who has not been named directly in the papers – has been coming under pressure to answer questions after his late father, Conservative members of the House of Lords and former Conservative MPs were named in the papers.

Deputy political editor of The Times in London Sam Coates has quoted Downing Street as saying that Cameron family money being held in a tax haven fund was a “private matter”.

Ukraine

Another head of state named in the papers is Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.

It has been revealed that he set up an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands in August 2014, while his country was facing a tense confrontation with Russia along its eastern border, three months after he was elected president.

Nuclear Security Summit Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The Guardian has reported that although what Poroshenko did was not illegal, it did run contrary to his commitment he made before his election to step away from his extensive business interests and act as a reformer.

France

Obama Nuclear Security Summit Francois Hollande Source: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

While there has been a rush by those named in the leaked documents to state their innocence, France’s François Hollande has come out firmly in support of the leaks and has promised they will result in legal action.

“It’s good news that we are aware of these revelations because it will bring in tax revenue from those who have defrauded,” he told AFP.

New Zealand

The country has also been feeling the heat due to its role as a tax haven in analysis of the Mossack Fonseca documents.

According to the NZ Herald, the country accounts for only a tiny proportion of the cases cited in the scandal, but a number of trusts with links to the Panama-based law firm have been set up in the country.

Speaking about this, the country’s Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse said that it was “ridiculous to suggest that New Zealand is a tax haven” as “tax havens thrive on secrecy”.

Australia

In Australia sparks are flying over accusations that not enough has been done to close tax loopholes.

The Australian deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek told the Guardian earlier:

This affects us all. It is hard to pay for our health and education and other investments in our community if very large companies and high net wealth individuals aren’t paying their fare share.
Tax authorities in both New Zealand and Australia have said today that they are investigating those named in the papers over possible tax evasion.

Who else?

With information from the documents only coming available last night, the sheer number of those involved isn’t clear at the moment – and more high-profile political figures are sure to be named as the day goes on.

Here are a few others who have also been caught up in the fracas that you might not have heard about just yet:

  •  The PM of Pakistan, the King of Saudi Arabia and the children of the President of Azerbaijan have also been found to control offshore companies.
  • Offshore companies also found to be held by the family of China’s President Xi Jinping. 
  • Actor Jackie Chan has also been shown to have companies managed through the Panamanian law firm.

Read: The secretive law firm helping the rich and powerful hide their wealth

Also: The largest leak of financial data ever shows how world leaders – and Lionel Messi – are hiding their wealth

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