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Image source: ICIJ

Several world leaders have denied wrongdoing after featuring in the Pandora Papers, a huge leak of financial documents from offshore companies.

The 12 million files constitute the biggest such leak in history.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Jordan’s King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein are among some 35 current and former leaders linked to the files.

Both have issued statements saying they have done nothing wrong.

Jordan’s royal palace said it was “not unusual nor improper” that King Abdullah owned property abroad.

Leaked documents show King Abdullah secretly spent more than £70 million ($100 million) on a property empire in the UK and US since taking power in 1999.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov meanwhile questioned the reliability of the “unsubstantiated” information, after it detailed hidden wealth linked to President Putin and members of his inner circle.

The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington DC, which has been working with more than 140 media organizations on its biggest ever global investigation.

Other leaders linked to the leak include:

  • Czech PM Andrej Babis, who allegedly failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two villas for £12 million in the south of France;
  • Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who – along with six members of his family – has been linked to 13 offshore companies;
  • Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera, a billionaire businessman, who is accused of selling a copper and iron mine in an environmentally sensitive area to a childhood friend;
  • Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, whose family and close associates have allegedly been secretly involved in property deals in the UK worth more than £400 million.

Panama Papers: Vladimir Putin Apologizes for Sueddeutsche Zeitung Remarks

Panama Papers Posted Online

In a tweet thread, the Czech prime minister said the allegations are an attempt to influence elections scheduled for this week and insisted he has “never done anything wrong or illegal”.

president Kenyatta said the investigation “will go a long way in enhancing the financial transparency and openness that we require in Kenya and around the globe”, and promised to “respond comprehensively” to the leak once he returned from a state visit abroad.

The Pandora Papers show no evidence that the Kenyatta family stole or hid state assets in their offshore companies.

A statement from President Piñera’s office said he denied taking part in or having any information on the sale of the Dominga mining project.

The Pandora Papers is a leak of almost 12 million documents and files exposing the secret wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians and billionaires. The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington DC which has led one of the biggest ever global investigations.

More than 600 journalists from 117 countries have looked at the hidden fortunes of some of the most powerful people on the planet.

The Panama Papers relating to more than 200,000 offshore accounts have been posted online.

The huge database belonging to Mossack Fonseca law firm became accessible on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) website offshoreleaks.icij.org.

The documents have shown how some wealthy people use offshore companies to evade tax and avoid sanctions.

The papers were leaked by a source simply known as “John Doe”. The company denies any wrongdoing.

Last week Mossack Fonseca issued a “cease and desist ” order to prevent the database being made public but the organization that has the documents, the ICIJ, appears to be going ahead.

The papers have revealed the hidden assets of hundreds of politicians, officials, current and former national leaders, celebrities and sports stars.

They list more than 200,000 shell companies, foundations and trusts set up in more than 20 tax havens around the world.

Among those whose affairs have come under scrutiny include, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine and Mauricio Macri of Argentina, UK PM David Cameron along with Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi, actor Jackie Chan and Spanish movie director Pedro Almodovar.

Iceland’s PM Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson resigned after the matter came to light.What are Panama Papers

Mossack Fonseca says it has never been accused or charged with criminal wrongdoing. It says it is the victim of a hack.

Offshore companies are not illegal but their function is often to conceal both the origin and the owners of money, and to avoid tax payments.

Some 2.6 terabytes of information – 11.5 million documents – was originally given to the German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, by “John Doe” more than a year ago.

The ICIJ insists that today’s online database is not be a data dump of the kind used by the WikiLeaks organization.

The ICIJ said: “The database will not include records of bank accounts and financial transactions, emails and other correspondence, passports and telephone numbers. The selected and limited information is being published in the public interest.”

On May 9, 300 economists signed a letter urging world leaders to end tax havens, saying they only benefited rich individuals and multinational corporations, while boosting inequality.

Although the name John Doe is used, the gender of the source has not been revealed.

Panamanian police have raided the headquarters of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the center of a massive data leak known as “Panama Papers”.

Prosecutors said the operation had been carried out at the company’s offices in Panama City “without incident or interference”.

The leaked “Panama Papers” have shown how some wealthy people use offshore companies to evade tax and avoid sanctions.

Mossack Fonseca has denied wrongdoing. The company says it is the victim of a hack and that the information is being misrepresented.

Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela has promised to work with other countries to improve transparency in its offshore financial industry.Mossack Fonseca raid Panama City

Police carried out the raid along with officials from an organized crime unit. Officers set up a perimeter around the headquarters while prosecutors entered the offices to search for documents.

Afterwards, the attorney general’s office said the aim had been “to obtain documentation linked to the information published in news articles that establish the use of the firm in illicit activities”.

The statement added that searches would also take place at Mossack Fonseca’s subsidiaries.

Panama’s government promised an investigation soon after news reports emerged more than a week ago based on more than 11 million documents from the company.

Mossack Fonseca tweeted that it “continues to co-operate with authorities in investigations made at our headquarters”.

Many other countries are probing possible financial crimes by the rich and powerful in the aftermath of the leak.

The company partner Ramon Fonseca says it had been hacked by servers based abroad and has filed a complaint with the Panamanian attorney general’s office.

Ramon Fonseca served as a minister in Juan Carlos Valera’s government but stepped aside earlier this year after separate allegations linked Mossack Fonseca to the corruption scandal engulfing the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras.

UK’s PM David Cameron of “hypocrisy” after he revealed he had owned shares in an offshore trust set up by his late father.

On April 7, David Cameron said he sold the shares before he enter Number 10 in 2010 and had paid all UK taxes due on profits from the £30,000 ($45,000) sale.

The prim minister said the company, Blairmore Holdings, had not been set up to avoid tax.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said David Cameron had called people who invested in similar schemes “morally wrong”.

There have been days of headlines about Blairmore Holdings – a fund for investors which until 2006 used “bearer shares” to protect its clients’ privacy – following the leak of 11 million documents held by Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

The papers show that David Cameron’s father, Ian, was one of five UK directors who flew to board meetings in the Bahamas or Switzerland.

Downing Street and PM David Cameron had issued four statements on whether he had any financial involvement with Blairmore Holdings before the PM told ITV News on April 7 about the shares he had owned.

Tom Watson said David Cameron could not be blamed for his father’s actions but added: “He can for hypocrisy. He said that sunlight is the best disinfectant and wasn’t entirely straight with the British people about what his own financial arrangements were.

“That wouldn’t be so bad if he hadn’t also been lecturing very prominent people about their own tax arrangements, some he called morally wrong for being invested in similar schemes.

“People don’t like that and they want a lot more answers from David Cameron before this scandal goes away.”

Shadow Treasury minister Richard Burgon called on David Cameron to make a statement on his tax affairs to Parliament on April 11.

“He must now further clarify whether or not he or his family were benefiting directly or indirectly in 2013 when he was lobbying to prevent EU measures to better regulate trusts as a way to clamp down on tax avoidance,” he said.

In his interview on April 7, David Cameron told ITV News: “I don’t have anything to hide. I’m proud of my dad and what he did and the business he established… I can’t bear to see his name being dragged through the mud.”

David Cameron said much criticism was based on a “fundamental misconception” that Blairmore Investment was set up to avoid tax.

“It wasn’t. It was set up after exchange controls went, so that people who wanted to invest in dollar denominated shares and companies could do so, and there are many other, thousands of other unit trusts set up in this way,” he said.

Downing Street said the Cameron family bought their holding in April 1997 for £12,497 and sold it in January 2010 for £31,500.

In 2010, the personal allowance before capital gains tax was paid was £10,100 per person.

Iceland’s PM Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson has resigned after the Panama Papers leaks shed an embarrassing spotlight on the world of offshore finance.

The so-called Panama Papers leaked from Mossack Fonseca showed Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson owned an offshore company, Wintris, with his wife.

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson was accused of concealing millions of dollars’ worth of family assets.

The agriculture minister is to take Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson’s place.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson is one of dozens of high-profile global figures caught up in the huge Mossack Fonseca leak.

Pressure for Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson to quit had intensified since the leaked material was first published on April 3.

News of Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson’s resignation came from Agriculture Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, who announced he would be taking over.

Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson is deputy leader of the governing Progressive party.

The Panama Papers show that Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson and his wife bought Wintris in 2007.

He did not declare an interest in the company when entering parliament in 2009. He sold his 50% of Wintris to his wife, Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir, for $1 (70p), eight months later.

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson says no rules were broken and his wife did not benefit financially.

The offshore company was used to invest millions of dollars of inherited money, according to a document signed by Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir in 2015.

Court records show that Wintris had significant investments in the bonds of three major Icelandic banks that collapsed during the financial crisis which began in 2008.

Some of Icelanders’ anger is believed to stem from the perceived conflict of interest.

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson was involved in negotiations about the banks’ future and had characterized foreign creditors who wanted their money back as “vultures”, while Wintris itself was a creditor.

He had kept his wife’s interest in the outcome a secret.

A spokesman for the prime minister said on April 4 that Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir had always declared the assets to the tax authorities and that, under parliamentary rules, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson did not have to declare an interest in Wintris.