UPDATE – 4/5: Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has resigned over the release of the Panama Papers. The document leak implicated the Icelandic PM in a Panama based tax avoidance scheme. Agriculture Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson announced the resignation on Monday and stated that he would be taking over.
It is not yet known if Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson has accepted Gunnlaugsson’s resignation, or if he will call an election to resolve this parliamentary crisis.
“I need to determine if there is support for dissolving (parliament) within the ruling coalition and others. The prime minister could not confirm this for me, and therefore I am not prepared at this time to dissolve parliament,” Grimsson said.
The release of the so-called Panama Papers this past weekend has sparked scandals in countries around the world.
The Panama Papers outline how Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonesca helped politicians worldwide create shell companies where they hid money offshore to avoid paying their country’s taxes.
“We have always complied with international protocols … to assure as is reasonably possible, that the companies we incorporate are not being used for tax evasion, money laundering, terrorist finance or other illicit purposes,” Mossack Fonesca said in a statement defending their operations.
The leak identifies 128 politicians and 12 heads of state including Argentinia’s President Mauricio Marci, Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and Russian President Vladimir Putin and his closest confidants.
“We know this so-called journalist community,” said Dimitry Peskov, Putin’s right-hand man. “There are a lot of journalists whose main profession is unlikely to be journalism; a lot of former officials from the US Department of State, the CIA and other special services.”
Peskov went on to condemn the Panama Papers as “Putinophobia” perpetrated by the West.
In Iceland, Gunnlaugsson is facing protests and calls for his immediate resignation.
The Panama Papers were leaked anonymously to German news outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The ICIJ is an organization which allows major news organizations in roughly 76 different countries to collaborate on major investigative news stories.
This leak is the largest in world history, by a long way. The Panama Papers contain 2.6TB of data, the previous record holder was the HSBC leak in 2015 at 3.38GB, approximately 3 percent of what the Panama Papers cover.
Nearly 11.5 million financial records are contained in the leak and they are not just those of politicians. Celebrities, business leaders and crime lords all are having their dirty laundry laid bare.
Perhaps most damning and most concerning is the fact that 33 companies and organizations blacklisted in the U.S. have been revealed to be using shell companies created through Mossack Fonesca to continue their operations.
Companies include Pangates International, Maxima Middle East Trading, and Morgan Additives Manufacturing, which were blacklisted by the U.S. government for providing petroleum for the air force of Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad.
An important take away to remember from this, is that as citizens, every American who dodges their taxes increases the burden on the rest of us.
[The Guardian] [ICIJ] [new.com.au] [Middle East Eye] [New York Times] [Daily Kos] [BBC] [The National Post]