ICIJ · The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

The Panama Papers Reading List

Introduction People Data Game
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Journalists Hang Tough in Face of Backlash Against Panama Papers Reporting

Reporters have faced consequences both in nations where media crackdowns are common and also in nations with reputations for high levels of press freedom.

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Panama Papers Have Had Historic Global Effects — and the Impacts Keep Coming

The investigation has produced an almost daily drumbeat of regulatory moves, follow-up stories and calls by politicians and activists for more action to combat offshore financial secrecy.

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BVI Hits Mossack Fonseca With Largest Fine Ever After Panama Papers Investigation

The $440,000 penalty followed a six-month investigation which included on-site compliance inspections and the appointment of an officer to monitor Mossack Fonseca's operations.

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Experts Who Quit Panama's Transparency Commission Produce Their Own Report

Report's authors say that the U.S. and EU have the power to force other nations to embrace transparency reforms by threatening to cut off access to their financial systems.

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Pakistan's PM Responds to Supreme Court Hearing on Panama Papers

Nawaz Sharif defended himself before the nation’s highest court, as opposition supporters celebrated in Islamabad.

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Panama Hires PR Firm Amid Ongoing Panama Papers Fallout

A PR firm is being paid $50,000 a month to help the Panama government, while arrests, protests and more continue around the world.

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Hedge Fund Sues Mossack Fonseca For Alleged Obstruction of Justice in Nevada

Confidential emails revealed in the Panama Papers have opened a new front in a bitter court battle in Nevada involving a hedge fund led by an American billionaire, new court filings show.

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Experts Quit Panama's Transparency Committee Over Lack of Transparency

The committee was established in the wake of the Panama Papers to probe Panama's financial services industry, but now two out of three international members have resigned.

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Continent of Secrets: Uncovering Africa's Offshore Empires

Africa receives $50 billion of foreign aid money annually, but then loses roughly the same amount through illicit outflows. Can you uncover Africa's offshore empires? Play now!

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Secret Offshore Deals Deprive Africa of Billions in Natural Resource Dollars

The Panama Papers show how politicians and mining, oil and gas interests benefit from secrecy and dubious multimillion dollar transfers.

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Secret Documents Expose Nigerian Oil Mogul’s Offshore Hideaways

A dealmaker’s backstage maneuverings are revealed in the Panama Papers as he hung with celebrities while criminal investigators closed in.

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Diamond Mine with Offshore Ties Leaves Trail of Complaints

The Panama Papers reveal a network of shell companies linked to a mining operation that has been accused of environmental harms and unpaid taxes.

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Out of Africa, Into Tax Havens

As visitors come to see what’s in Africa, some safari operators’ profits head offshore.

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Reporters Warned, Inquiries Opened as African Nations Respond to Panama Papers

Mossack Fonseca targeted clients in Africa for business, but now some of those clients have become targets themselves as authorities launch investigations into the Panama Papers revelations.

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Panama Papers Credited As New EU Anti Money-Laundering And Tax Abuse Rules Proposed

The European Commission has announced it will tighten the European Union’s anti-money laundering rules and increase transparency requirements for companies and trusts.

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Venezuela and Panama To Launch Joint Panama Papers Investigation

The joint investigation will be the "first of its kind," and Venezuela's attorney general has hinted at a long list of suspects.

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European Inquiry to Call UK Chancellor, Mossack Fonseca to Testify

A special 65-member Panama Papers committee of inquiry has been created by the European parliament to investigate potential wrongdoing exposed by ICIJ's investigation.

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Mossack Fonseca's US Operations Under Pressure, Island Offices Closed

Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca’s local affiliate in Nevada has resigned from more than 1,000 companies and paid a penalty to the state amid investigations on multiple fronts.

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US States Under Pressure As World Pushes For Financial Transparency

Nevada, Wyoming and Delaware are facing growing pressure over their lack of corporate transparency, as the United States and the international community continue to respond to fallout from the Panama Papers.

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The Malefactors of Mossack Fonseca

Meet The Dutchman, the Queen of the South, the Boss of Bosses and other convicted felons and alleged wrongdoers who have benefited from services provided by the law firm.

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Panama Papers Include Dozens of Americans Tied to Fraud and Financial Misconduct

Mossack Fonseca's files include offshore companies linked to at least 36 Americans accused of serious financial wrongdoing, including fraud and racketeering.

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Beyond Panama: Unlocking the world’s secrecy jurisdictions

The 21 jurisdictions covered by the Panama Papers data vary from the rolling hills of Wyoming to tropical getaways like the British Virgin Islands. But all have at least one thing in common - secrecy is the rule.

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Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come

The anonymous whistleblower behind the Panama Papers has conditionally offered to make the documents available to government authorities.

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US Officials React to Panama Papers Disclosures With Get-Tough Proposals

The Obama administration has proposed a national registry documenting the real owners of shell companies and other measures aimed at fighting offshore chicanery.

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Iceland’s First Lady Linked to Offshore Investments

Records in the Panama Papers and the Swiss Leaks leaked files tie the wife of Iceland President Ólafur Grímsson to offshore companies and accounts.

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Coming Soon: ICIJ to Release Panama Papers Offshore Companies Data

The database, to be released on May 9, will likely be the largest ever release of secret offshore companies and the people behind them.

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Cartel-Linked Suspects Arrested After Panama Papers Revelations

Uruguayan prosecutors are seeking to bring to trial at least five individuals detained on suspicion of laundering money for a powerful Mexican drug cartel.

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US Prosecutor Opens Investigation Into 'Panama Papers Matters'

ICIJ welcomes the interest from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office, but has made it clear it won't be turning over its data or taking part in any investigation.

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Banks Ordered to Provide Info on Panama Dealings to NY Regulator

More than a dozen banks identified in the Panama Papers investigation have been asked to hand over details of their communications with Mossack Fonseca.

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Pakistan's PM Leaves Country, Spanish Minister Resigns

Nawaz Sharif faces growing pressure and calls for his resignation, a Spanish minister has stepped aside, and more governments are pledging reform as fallout from the Panama Papers revelations continues.

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Panama Police Raid Mossack Fonseca As Global Fallout Continues

The search of Mossack Fonseca's Panama headquarters comes after a number of raids and official action taken in response to the Panama Papers revelations.

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Global joint investigation to be proposed at special tax meeting

Tax officials from 28 nations met in Paris to develop a strategy for collaborative action based on Panama Papers revelations.

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British PM Announces New Transparency Measures Following Panama Papers Revelations

David Cameron appeared before parliament on Monday to address concerns about his own links to offshore holdings revealed in the Panama Papers, as well as announce reform aimed at boosting transparency.

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The Art of Secrecy

Locked in the files of a Panama law firm are the answers to mysteries involving Van Goghs, Picassos, Rembrandts and other masterworks.

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Panama Papers Spark High-Level FIFA Resignation and Swiss Police Raid

Swiss police searched the office of Europe's top soccer association and a member of FIFA's ethics panel resigned following Panama Papers revelations.

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Leaked Files Offer Many Clues To Offshore Dealings by Top Chinese

Eight current and former members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the country's top decision makers, have relatives with secret offshore companies.

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Spies and Shadowy Allies Lurk in Secret With Help From Offshore Firm

Firm helps CIA operatives and other characters — real or fanciful — from the world of espionage set up offshore companies to obscure their dealings.

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Iceland Prime Minister Tenders Resignation Following Panama Papers Revelations

The prime minister of Iceland said he would resign following mass protests triggered by reports from ICIJ and partners that he had owned an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands with his wife.

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Law Firm’s Files Include Dozens of Companies and People Blacklisted by U.S. Authorities

Global law firm’s customers include suspected financiers of terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferators and gunrunners.

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How Family that Runs Azerbaijan Built an Empire of Hidden Wealth

Documents peel away three layers of secret ownership in a conglomerate and lead to gold mines and overseas real estate.

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Global Banks Team with Law Firms To Help the Wealthy Hide Assets

Leaked records show that hundreds of banks and their subsidiaries and branches registered nearly 15,600 shell companies.

About this project

The Panama Papers is an unprecedented investigation that reveals the offshore links of some of the globe’s most prominent figures.

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All Putin’s Men: Secret Records Reveal Money Network Tied to Russian Leader

Complex offshore financial deals channel money and power towards a network of people and companies linked to President Vladimir Putin.

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Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption

Millions of documents show heads of state, criminals and celebrities using secret hideaways in tax havens.

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Panamanian Law Firm Is Gatekeeper To Vast Flow of Murky Offshore Secrets

Files show client roster that includes drug dealers, Mafia members, corrupt politicians and tax evaders — and wrongdoing galore.

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Leak Ties Ethics Guru to Three Men Charged in FIFA Scandal

Secret documents show how deeply the world of soccer has become enmeshed in the world of offshore havens.

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Iceland’s Prime Minister Ducks Question But the Answer Catches Up with Him

He came to power after the country’s financial collapse while hiding his offshore holdings of millions in bonds from Icelandic banks.

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How the One Percenters Divorce: Offshore Intrigue Plays Hide and Seek with Millions

Firm that practices no matrimonial law nonetheless plays big role when the superrich around the globe decide to split.

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Out of Africa, Into Tax Havens

As visitors come to see what’s in Africa, some safari operators’ profits head offshore

By

In this story

  • At least 30 safari companies in Africa used offshore companies created by Mossack Fonseca
  • Reducing taxes may be one reason to have created offshore companies for safari companies, say experts

Each year, tourists cross the plains of central Zimbabwe to sleep near the roar of Victoria Falls, track elephants, cheetahs and pangolins, and dine under the stars.

The visitors are accompanied every step of the way by John Stevens, a man who has been called “perhaps the finest guide to come out of Zimbabwe.”

And while Stevens’ safari business is very much Zimbabwean, his financial universe is a classic creation of offshore globetrotting.

Stevens’ financial affairs, outlined in years of correspondence with Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal, reveal how the poetry of Africa’s savannahs mixes with the day-to-day paper-pushing of offshore management.

articles/00Africa/160725-safari-03.jpgCreated in 2011, Stevens’ Guided Safaris Africa Inc. was headquartered on paper in the British Virgin Islands, a speck of land in the Caribbean nearly 100 times smaller than Zimbabwe’s largest safari reserve. It was set up to manage the Stevens’ family wealth and to act as a booking agent for an estimated $250,000 a year in “safari revenue,” according to files received by Mossack Fonseca. The company held a bank account in the Isle of Man, an offshore financial center in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland, and was owned by Stevens’ family trust.

Stevens’ company is one of at least 30 offshore African safari businesses created by Mossack Fonseca, according to an analysis of the Panama-based law firm’s records. While most of them are officially based in the British Virgin Islands, their day-to-day ventures are safaris that operate across southern and eastern Africa, from Namibia through Zimbabwe and Botswana up into Tanzania and Kenya. One operator could be found as far north as Egypt, offering a steel-hull pleasure yacht for a “live-aboard diving safari” in the Red Sea.

Mossack Fonseca is one of the world’s largest creators of offshore companies, businesses that have few or no employees and are usually located not where the company operates but where taxes are low or secrecy is high.

The firm told ICIJ that “we merely help incorporate companies, and before we agree to work with a client in any way, we conduct a thorough due-diligence process, one that in every case meets and quite often exceeds all relevant local rules, regulations and standards.”

articles/00Africa/160725-safari-04.jpgTourists who come to Africa to view the continent’s beauty may think that their dollars, euros and yen stay in local economies, but this may not always be the case. The activities of some safari companies created by Mossack Fonseca in secrecy-conscious tax havens like the British Virgin Islands – which are known in shorthand as the BVI – concern transparency advocates and some governments that rely on tourism as a source of official revenue.

“In general, there is no legitimate reason why a tourism operator would need to route their transaction via a highly secretive jurisdiction such as the BVI,” said Savior Mwambwa, a tax reform campaigner at ActionAid International. “There is also nothing special about the tourism sector in Africa which would warrant offshore arrangements for payments from abroad. … I can’t see any legitimate reason to channel bookings through the BVI and the Isle of Man apart from tax minimization.”

Stevens did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Fifty-six million visitors came to Africa in 2014, according to the United Nations. In some countries, such as in John Stevens’ Zimbabwe, safaris and other kinds of tourism represent up to 5 percent of the gross domestic product.

Alvin Mosioma, executive director of the advocacy group Tax Justice Network – Africa, said tourism is a sector that’s prone to questionable tax practices because it is “almost impossible” to nail down a market value for services. That makes it easy for companies involved in the industry to book profits and costs in a way that shifts their tax burdens to low- or no-tax jurisdictions, he said.

The offshore system’s global sprawl provides plenty of choice in how to structure a financial scheme.

In 2013, representatives of a BVI-based company called Nature Trails International Limited wrote to its registered agent, Mossack Fonseca, to discuss its accounts. The company “receives payment from bookings for tours and travel in East Africa and from time to time contracts to pay local Kenyan tour operators for their services,” a business plan shared with Mossack Fonseca explained. Nature Trail’s sole shareholder was a company based in the secretive island nation of Mauritius, where Nature Trails also owned a bank account.

The company’s business plan said it sought to take advantage of tourism’s “momentum of rapid growth in the eastern African countries during the recent years.” The company was dissolved in 2014 for reasons not specified in Mossack Fonseca’s files.

A second company, Far Horizons (1998) Limited, existed “to organize, design and sell safari expeditions and adventures” through Africa. This company also held a bank account in Mauritius. Yet another company, Safaris Inc., was incorporated in the Seychelles and held bank accounts in Luxembourg. A fourth company, operating in Namibia, was headquartered in the BVI, owned a bank account in Liechtenstein and held meetings in Switzerland.

In Tanzania, Gerard Pasanisi, one of the country’s oldest and best-known safari guides and elephant conservationists, owned shares in at least four companies created by Mossack Fonseca. The first, Gerard Pasanisi Safari Corp., was created in the 1980s and used a Swiss bank account to pay routine bills from Mossack Fonseca. Pasanisi’s string of offshore companies remained active with Mossack Fonseca into 2015. They included a Dubai-based company, Tanganyika Expeditions Ltd., which banked in Switzerland and which and carried out “photographic safaris” in Tanzania.

Lawyers for Eric Pasinisi, Gerard Pasanisi’s son and the manager of the businesses, told ICIJ that the four companies are currently administered from the United Arab Emirates and that their legal and tax statuses are transparent in both the UAE and Tanzania. At the time the companies were incorporated, lawyers said, BVI and Panama were “the most popular and recognized jurisdictions.” The lawyers said “the companies regularly fulfill all their respective tax obligations in both countries.”  

Above the border in Kenya, one of the leading safari dynasties, the Carr-Hartley family, asked Mossack Fonseca in 2001 to help create Safariland Inc.

According to a prospectus shared with Mossack Fonseca in 2013, Safariland Inc. helped deliver “extreme comfort with a taste of wild places off the tourist beat, where one can feel the rhythm and heartbeat of wild Africa, yet want for nothing.”

Safariland Inc. was based in the British Virgin Islands and used directors-for-hire with no connection to the Kenyan family. It shares the name of the company to which potential tourists are encouraged to contact the Carr-Hartley family online. Safariland Inc. expected to make half a million dollars a year, the Carr-Hartleys told Mossack Fonseca in documents sent in 2013.

articles/00Africa/160725-safari-05.jpgRobert and William Carr-Hartley – fourth-generation Kenyan brothers who learned to ride rhinos before they learned to ride horses – had a busy relationship with Mossack Fonseca as their luxury safari empire expanded across Africa.

Robert Carr-Hartely also created The Raw Foundation in Panama in 2000 to distribute money to himself and his family. Mossack Fonseca offers private foundations to its clients as a way to pay no tax on their assets and guarantee secrecy and little paperwork, calling them “an ideal vehicle in the offshore industry.”

The Carr-Hartleys did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The Raw Foundation also owned every share of another Panama company, Munga Munga Inc. In a poem shared in 2010 on Facebook, the Carr-Hartley brothers recalled having climbed – or “munga munga’ed” – up waterfalls in search of the mythical Kenyan Yeti.

Back in Panama and deep inside Mossack Fonseca’s electronic files, however, the company’s purpose was simply listed as “e-commerce.”

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