Latin America Exposed: The Panama Papers 

CorruptionJessica Cruz, Melanie Landa, and Christopher Razo, Research Associates at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs report on the leaking of 11.5 million files from the database of Mossack Fonseca law firm, whose headquarters is in Panama City, Panama.

On April 3, 2016, Suddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s largest daily newspaper leaked 11.5 million files from the database of Mossack Fonseca law firm whose headquarters is in Panama City, Panama. The files exposed financial dealings of some of the world’s richest and most powerful individuals including a number of leaders in Latin America. The sources were shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and a network of international partners including the BBC and the Guardian. [. . .] These files reveal offshore accounts of current and former world leaders as well as individuals with close ties to political figures and business moguls around the globe. Some of the well-known and shocking names included in the files were the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri. The files also reveal that it is not only politicians who are found to be tied to the alleged laundering of funds but professional football star, Lionel Messi and the former head of European football’s governing body UEFA, Michael Platini as well. Along with those who are allegedly involved with this corruption scandal are Latin American leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

Concerns for Latin America  Concerns are high for Latin America not only because the law firm whose files were leaked was based in Panama, but because these files exposed the offshore tax-exempt accounts of a number of Latin American leaders and politicians from all throughout the region. In Argentina, the recently elected, Mauricio Macri, was associated with the offshore company, Fleg Trading Ltd, which was incorporated in the Bahamas in 1998 and dissolved in January 2009. [. . .]

Mossack Fonseca’s History of Alleged Corruption The Panama Papers represents the second investigation filed against the Panamanian law firm. At the end of January this year, Mossack Fonseca was investigated for involvement in the Brazilian Petrobras scandal and their alleged participation in money laundering regarding Operation Lava Jato. To this investigation, Brazilian procurator, Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima, claimed that the law firm was a criminal organization responsible for the money laundering, bribery, and secret offshore accounts and shell companies. [. . .]

What’s Next?  Now that the door is open, new revelations are bound to come forward to expose the depth of the Panamanian corruption scandal. The release of the Panama Papers is merely chapter one of a much more serious and larger case. There are assumptions that a number of Americans are bound to be involved and such information may be disclosed as new developments occur. Further spurs or revelations may include the exposure of a number of Americans involved in land speculation, building booms, and canal exploitation. Although there has been no statement from the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the Panama Papers. [. . .]

Given the close diplomatic ties between the United States and the Panamanian government, it may be of interest of the U.S. to investigate the firm – which has offices in the United States – as a whole. The disclosure of the Panama Papers makes Panama the stage for the largest leak of information containing corruption files in history. [. . .]

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