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Panama Papers
November 29, 2018

Police raided six Deutsche Bank offices, including the lender's Frankfurt headquarters, on Thursday as part of an ongoing money laundering investigation, The New York Times reports.

About 170 officers and officials took part in the raid, with authorities suspecting two employees in particular of helping wealthy clients set up off-shore accounts to illegally launder money from criminal activity, per BBC News.

Deutsche Bank on Twitter Thursday confirmed that its offices were being raided, saying it is "cooperating fully with the authorities" and that the investigation "has to do with the Panama Papers case." Leaked in 2015, the Panama Papers detailed instances of the rich dodging taxes using offshore accounts, and hundreds of Deutsche Bank clients were included in the documents.

Deutsche Bank in September was hit with a $630 million fine as part of a similar investigation, per Reuters, and Germany's financial watchdog ordered the bank to do more to prevent money laundering. Brendan Morrow

May 11, 2016

Actress and activist Emma Watson's name is among those listed in the Panama Papers, the collection of more than 11 million leaked offshore tax documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm.

Watson maintains, however, that her presence on the list does not mean she was doing anything illicit. "Emma (like many high-profile individuals) set up an offshore company for the sole purpose of protecting her anonymity and safety," her representative said Tuesday, adding, "Emma receives absolutely no tax or monetary advantages from this offshore company whatsoever — only privacy."

Other noteworthy names found in the documents include Watson's fellow Brits Simon Cowell and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as actor Jackie Chan and Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who was forced to resign over the revelation. American names have shown up as well, including a Mississippi businessman whose father confessed to an infamous lynching in the 1950s. Bonnie Kristian

April 12, 2016

Late Tuesday, Panama's attorney general and national police raided the Panama City headquarters of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm whose documents were leaked, exposing the use of offshore tax vehicles by the wealthy to shield their money from tax authorities and public scrutiny. The national police said they were looking for documents that "would establish the possible use of the firm for illicit activities," such as tax evasion or fraud, and in a statement after the raid, the attorney general's office said the operation had been carried out "without incidence or interference."

The prosecutor leading the raid, Javier Caravallo, specializes in organized crime and money laundering. Mossack Fonseca partner Ramon Fonseca has said his firm was hacked, and maintains that it has done nothing illegal. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela has pledged to work with other countries to improve financial transparency. Fonseca was a minister in Varela's government until earlier this year, when he stepped down amid accusations that Mossack Fonseca played a role in the Petrobras corruption scandal in Brazil. Peter Weber

April 8, 2016

On Thursday evening, British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged that he and his wife had owned shares in an offshore investment trust, Blairmore Holdings, that his late stockbroker father had set up in Panama in 1982. The account, whose ownership was revealed in this week's Panama Papers leak, was not set up to avoid taxes, Cameron said, and he did not personally commit any tax fraud through his holdings and doesn't "have anything to hide."

"Samantha and I had a joint account and we owned 5,000 units in Blairmore investment trust which we sold in January 2010, that was worth something like £30,000," or about $50,000, Cameron told ITV. "I paid income tax on the dividends, but there was a profit on it, but that was less than the capital gains tax allowance, so I didn't pay capital gains tax, but it was subject to all the UK taxes in all the normal ways." The prime minister's office said that Cameron and his wife had purchased their shares in April 1997 for £12,497 and sold them for £31,500, before Cameron became prime minister. The personal allowance for capital gains taxes in 2010 was £10,100 per person, BBC News reports.

The opposition Labour Party criticized Cameron's "extraordinary admission," after days of vague answers about Blairmore from his office. "David Cameron, who described the use of complex tax avoidance schemes as 'morally wrong,' has been forced to admit that he held shares in a fund now linked to tax avoidance," said deputy Labour leader Tom Watson. Cameron will release his tax returns as early as next week, BBC News says. You can watch Cameron explain his investment and defend his father and Blairmore in the video below. Peter Weber

April 7, 2016

Most of the wealthy people implicated so far in the leak of offshore tax documents from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca have been Russian, Chinese, and other nationalities, but there are also some American names in the 11.5 million documents collectively called the Panama Papers. McClatchy Newspapers, which published a number of prominent U.S. names on Wednesday night, notes that many among "the mega-rich... rely on such companies for all sorts of legal purposes," while others probably have not.

Among the Americans whose names appear in the documents, McClatchy says, are former Citigroup chief Sanford Weill; Hyatt heiress Liesel Pritzker Simmons and her husband, fellow heir Ian Simmons; music and film mogul David Geffen; Jerry W. Slusser, an investment banker and Republican fundraiser; and John Thompson Dorrance IV, whose family created Campbell Soup. Most of those people denied any wrongdoing. USA Today also notes several Americans in the leaked documents who were already convicted or under investigation for tax fraud, including Wall Street financier Benjamin Wey, Russian-born commercial real estate tycoon Igor Olenicoff, convicted Ponzi schemer Robert Miracle, and convicted tax-dodge schemer John Michael "Red" Crim.

McClatchy's Kevin Hall has more on Americans in the Panama Papers:

"I would assume a lot of the ultra rich are having conversations with their tax lawyers about what their exposure is as a result of this leak," University of Connecticut tax law expert Richard Pomp tells McClatchy. “They know their names are likely to be revealed to the IRS. The question is 'How clean are we?'" Another law expert, Edward Mermelstein, whose firm represents international investors, said that rich Americans are mostly sighing because their exposure is "tiny compared to the diapers being soiled outside the United States."

Wealthy Americans aren't the only ones rethinking the use of offshore shell companies, The Wall Street Journal says, noting that even before the Panama Papers leak, Mossack Fonseca's business had been "tumbling for a decade as global regulators led by the U.S. cracked down on offshore tax havens and money laundering." The super rich are finding other ways to shield their money, like buying up luxury real estate, The Journal adds, but "the Panama Papers, which go back to 1977, are in some ways a trip down memory lane for the business of hiding assets offshore, either for privacy, to avoid taxation or to hide ill-gotten gains." Peter Weber

April 6, 2016

The 11.5 million documents released in a bundle dubbed the Panama Papers were stolen from the Mossack Fonseca law firm by a hacker, a founding partner of the company said.

Mossack Fonseca has ruled out an inside job, Ramon Fonseca told Reuters, and has a "theory we are following." On Sunday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the documents, including emails, contracts, and banking statements, saying they detail how the wealthy can use offshore tax companies and accounts to hide assets. Fonseca said the law firm, which specializes in setting up offshore companies, is the victim of a "witch hunt," and has never broken the law, evaded taxes, or laundered money.

Fonseca told Reuters the emails that have been published were "taken out of context," and the company has filed a complaint with prosecutors in Panama. Several world leaders and celebrities were named in the leaked documents, and the prime minister of Iceland resigned on Tuesday as part of the fallout. Catherine Garcia

April 4, 2016

With the recent leak of 11.5 million documents from the world's fourth-largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca, some startling revelations about dark money in the global financial system have emerged. The leaked documents — dubbed the "Panama Papers" for the law firm's location — include shareholder registers, bank statements, passports, emails, and contracts, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism says the documents detail how the wealthy use offshore banks and shell companies to hide their assets.

Here are some of the biggest revelations from one of the largest data leaks in history:

  • Among the 143 politicians found to be using offshore tax havens, 12 are current or former national leaders, or are their family members or associates. Leaders found to be linked to the documents include Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif; Saudi Arabia's monarch, King Salman; Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko; Iceland's prime minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson; Syria's president, Bashar Assad; and China's president, Xi Jinping,
  • A network believed to be connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin has allegedly laundered more than $2 billion.
  • In the United Kingdom, six members of the House of Lords have been found to have had offshore assets.
  • Families of eight current and former members of China's supreme ruling party have been found to have offshore assets.
  • A top member of Fifa's ethics committee, charged with reforming world soccer's governing body, has been found to have "acted as a lawyer for individuals and companies recently charged with bribery and corruption," The Guardian reports.
  • At least 33 individuals or companies blacklisted by the U.S. government because of evidence of dealings with the drug and arms trade, terrorist organizations, and rogue nations including Iran and North Korea are listed in the leak.

The documents were analyzed by more than 370 reporters from 100 media organizations over the past year. Becca Stanek

April 4, 2016

On Monday, tax authorities in Australia and New Zealand said they are looking into possible tax evasion by hundreds of wealthy taxpayers named in the massive leak of offshore banking documents reported Sunday. The Panama Papers, so named because they originated at Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, cover the use of offshore shell companies by 14,153 clients, reportedly to hide vast sums of wealth, between 1977 and last December.

"Currently we have identified over 800 individual taxpayers and we have now linked over 120 of them to an associate offshore service provider located in Hong Kong," the Australian Tax Office told Reuters. Some of those 800 have already voluntarily reported their offshore holdings under a now-ended amnesty program, and others have already been investigated, but a large number of the people under scrutiny have not disclosed their holdings and may face criminal charges, ATO said. New Zealand's tax agency said it is also looking through the Mossack Fonseca reports to find if anyone has cheated on their taxes.

Ramon Fonseca, the director of Mossack Fonseca and until recently a high-ranking Panamanian government official, said the "vast majority" of the 240,000 offshore companies his firm has set up were used for "legitimate purposes." He called the leak of what he described as hacked documents part of "an international campaign against privacy." Peter Weber

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