Like the universe, the Panama Papers started with a bang and has been expanding ever since. Beginning with the first publication on April 3, 2016, the Mossack Fonseca files continue to make news, exposing the secrets of the powerful, forcing prosecutors, lawmakers, and civil society to deal with the results. As I put the finishing touches on my new book, Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Ilicit Money Networks and the Global Elite, it’s a propitious moment to take stock of some of the latest news.
In recent months, revelations from the Mossack Fonseca files contributed to the removal of the prime minister of Pakistan and the resignation of the chairman of Mongolia’s Ulaanbaatar city council. It also played a factor in the arrest of an Italian fugitive implicated in an elaborate fraud that included laundering money through New York apartments.
New media partners joined the project. The Associated Press probed the holdings of the controversial Thai family behind the Red Bull fortune. The New York Times looked into some of the secret dealings of Russian banks in the files.
Meanwhile, a special inquiry committee of the European Parliament has spent the past year investigating multiple facets of the Panama Papers. The committee’s hearings have focused on the most significant players found in the files, the banks, accounting firms and tax havens that undergird the secrecy world. A good source of information on the committee’s work can be found at a microsite created by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left MEPs.
Back in Panama, firm founders Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca were jailed for more than two months and finally released in April after each posted a half-a-million-dollar bail. Prosecutors pursued the men over the firm’s alleged involvement in Lava Jato, the extraordinary Brazilian scandal in which authorities accused construction firm Odebrecht of paying $3.3 billion in bribes in more than a dozen countries. Fonseca claimed that MF had little to do with the Odebrecht scandal beyond selling a few anonymous companies, which may have been misused by their buyers. His loud assertions that the current Panamanian administration itself might be implicated in the affair may or may not have had something to do with the length of his and Mossack’s incarceration. Needless to say, prosecutors around the world are still investigating the men and the firm’s activities.
What this year demonstrated is that there is much yet to be revealed from the Panama Papers. More updates to come in the months ahead. On November 21, Secrecy World hits the bookstores. Stay tuned.