|ARABIAN POST SPECIAL| The Ras Al Khaimah Offshore Centre was among the centres, along with London, Miami and Zurich, used by Mossack Fonseca, the little-known but powerful law firm based in Panama, that constitutes the core of the Panama Papers, which has rocked the world by revealing the offshore links some of the planet’s most prominent people used to hide wealth.
Mossack Fonseca has branches in London, Beijing, Miami, Zurich and more than 35 other places around the globe. The expose also brings out the role played by major banks, including HSBC and UBS, as big drivers behind the creation of hard-to-trace companies in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other offshore havens.
Most of the services the offshore industry provides can be used for legal purpose and are by law-abiding customers. But the documents show that banks, law firms and other offshore players often fail to follow legal requirements to make sure clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption. The files show that these fixers and middlemen protect themselves and their clients by concealing suspect transactions. In some instances, they work to head off official investigations by backdating and destroying documents.
Panama papers is the largest cross-border media collaboration ever undertaken. Journalists working in more than 25 languages dug into the inner affairs of Mossack Fonseca and traced the secret dealings of the law firm’s customers around the world. The leaked records were reviewed by a team of more than 370 journalists from nearly 80 countries.
They shared information and hunted down leads generated by the leaked files using corporate filings, property records, financial disclosures, court documents and interviews with money laudering experts and law-enforcement officials.
The firm is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies, corporate structures that can be used to hide ownership of assets. The law firm’s leaked internal files contain information on 214,000 offshore companies connected to people in 200 countries and territories.
The files list more than 15,600 paper companies that banks set up for clients who wanted to keep their finances under wraps, including hundreds created by international banking giants.
The leak exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies.
The files contain new details about major scandals ranging from England’s most infamous gold heist, an unfolding political money laundering affair in Brazil and bribery allegations convulsing FIFA, the body that rules international soccer.
They also provide details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 other politicians and public officials around the world and show how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.
The data include emails, financial spreadsheets, passports and corporate records revealing the secret owners of bank accounts and companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions, from Nevada to Hong Kong to the British Virgin Islands.