Panama Papers-Biggest Document Leak in History

 

More than 11 million secret documents of a law firm in Panama have been leaked to the German Süddeutsche Zeitung. The documents, nicknamed the Panama Papersreveal how thousands of politicianscelebrities , athletes and other wealthy people around the world use tax havens to hide their money.

2.6 terabytes of information were secretly given to journalists of the German newspaper last year. They then started investigations, working through the documents  with  journalists from other countries. The Panama Papers are the biggest leak in journalism in history, much larger than what was published by WikiLeaks some years ago.

There are several world leaders who are suspected of being involved in the money scandal, including Russia's Vladimir Putin and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, who admitted that he profited from an offshore account set up by his father. A number of Chinese politicians are also supposedly involved in the scandal.

Only a few days after the news was released Iceland's Prime Minster resigned from office after the public found out that his wife owned an offshore account.

The Panamanian offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca is at the center of the scandal. Representatives from the company have announced that it has never done anything illegal. It is not known who gave the documents to the German newspaper.

 

Many rich people around the world put their money into tax havens where there is little or no tax to pay.  These are mostly countries that do not share tax information with other countries. Banks help their customers hide their money in such secret offshore accounts. According to the journalists' investigations, over $2 billion have been secretly funneled through banks in the past 40 years.

While setting up an offshore account is not against the law, some companies use it for illegal activities like laundering moneyevading taxes. or drug trafficking.

 

Panama City

Panama City - where the Panama Papers originated - Image :  Brian Gratwicke

 

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Words

  • according to = as said by ....
  • admit = to say that something is true
  • announce = to say officially
  • billion = a thousand million
  • celebrity = famous person
  • document = a written piece of information
  • drug trafficking = to buy and sell drugs
  • evade = escape
  • funnel = here: to secretly send money through a bank
  • illegal = against the law
  • including = also
  • investigation = when you examine something carefully because you think a crime may have been committed
  • launder money = to move money that you have received illegally through banks to make it seem as if everything has been done legally
  • law = rules made by the government
  • leak = to pass on secret information to newspapers and other media
  • nickname = a popular name that people use for something or someone
  • offshore account = a bank account in another country where you pay less tax
  • politician = person who has a position in the government or works in parliament or a political party
  • profit = to make money from something
  • public = people in general
  • publish = to show the media
  • release = show to the public
  • representative = person who speaks for their company
  • resign = give up a job or position
  • reveal = show
  • secret = something that only a few people know and should not be passed on to others
  • set up = create
  • share = exchange with others
  • supposedly = something that may be true
  • suspect = think that someone may have done something against the law
  • tax = the money that you have to pay to the government, based on your income
  • tax haven = place or country where people pay less tax than they would if they lived in their home country
  • terabyte = unit of computer information; about 1,000 gigabytes
  • wealthy = rich