A huge leak of confidential documents has revealed how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth.
The hidden wealth of some of the world’s most prominent leaders, politicians and celebrities has been revealed by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
It has leaked 11 million documents from one of the world’s most secretive companies.
Though there is nothing unlawful about using offshore companies, the files raise fundamental questions about the ethics of such tax havens – and the revelations are likely to provoke urgent calls for reforms of a system that critics say is arcane and open to abuse.
Journalists from more than 80 countries have been reviewing 11.5m leaked files.
They show how Mossack Fonseca has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax.
The documents show links to 72 current or former heads of state in the data, including dictators accused of looting their own countries.
The data contains secret offshore companies linked to the families and associates of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi and Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad.
The documents reveal that two sons and a daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif set up at least four offshore companies in British Virgin Islands (BVI).
It claims that Hussain and Hasan Nawaz Sharif, and Mariam Safdar, the sons and daughter of PM Nawaz Sharif, owned at least six upmarket properties overlooking London’s Hyde Park.
Sharif family mortgaged four of these properties to the Deutsche Bank (Suisse) SA for a loan of GBP 7 million and the Bank of Scotland part financed the purchase of two other apartments, the document said.
A $2bn trail leads all the way to Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s best friend – a cellist called Sergei Roldugin – is at the centre of a scheme in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore. Some of it ends up in a ski resort where in 2013 Putin’s daughter Katerina got married.
Six members of the House of Lords, three former Conservative MPs and dozens of donors to UK political parties have had offshore assets.
The families of at least eight current and former members of China’s supreme ruling body, the politburo, have been found to have hidden wealth offshore.