News·2 min read

Panama Papers: Why they were such a big deal

Jul 20, 2017

The story

You've probably heard about that 2016 Burn Book called the

Panama Papers

Why are they such a big deal?

Because they’re more than 11 million documents that allegedly reveal offshore accounts and secret shell companies of

politicians and public officials

How did that happen?

So who's in trouble?

Current and former heads of state in Ukraine, Argentina, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Plus FIFA officials and soccer star

Lionel Messi

Sounds like it was a hot Messi.

So hot that Iceland’s PM Gunnlaugsson had to be put on ice. He was

forced to resign

after the papers revealed that he’d set up an offshore company with alleged

stakes in Icelandic banks

What about Russia?

President Putin wasn’t named in the docs, but his BFFs were accused of channeling $2 billion through a complex web of offshore companies. A lot of people are thinking Putin could have profited from all this. To which the Russian government said this is all just a smear campaign that’s taking advantage of


So everyone named did illegal stuff?

Unclear. It’s not always illegal to have an offshore bank account. But it is illegal to have one just for the purpose of hiding cash money, or to avoid paying taxes to The Man. Mossack Fonseca said that setting up offshore companies is

“legal and common”

and taking these docs without permission is neither of those things, thanks very much. Meanwhile, a bunch of countries have

started investigations

Were any Americans involved?

Yes. There are 36 American names on the list, but probably

nobody you’ve ever heard of


The Panama Papers have been described by

Edward Snowden

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