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Panama Papers – “Mailbox companies are Putin’s best friends”

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Status: 07/22/2022 11:03 a.m.

The publication of the Panama Papers in 2016 provided insight into the offshore world of shell companies and tax havens. The whistleblower who transmitted the data has now spoken in a “Spiegel” interview.

The Panama Papers were exposed by a whistleblower who went by the name John Doe and who reported to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ) in 2015. “John Doe” leaked more than 2.6 terabytes to SZ journalists of the time, Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier. the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Almost nothing has been heard from him since then. Only once did he speak out with a manifesto in which he called on politicians to take action to tackle global inequality. Otherwise, the world could fall into “serious instability”. Letterbox companies and tax havens are a key tool used to cement inequality around the world.

Now “John Doe” has spoken at length, in an exclusive interview he gave to the two journalists at the time who now work for “Spiegel”: He fears that the instability he warned of years, has now arrived. To this day, he keeps his identity top secret lest states or criminals take revenge on him.

Panama papers

The Panama Papers are a 2.6 terabyte data leak that revealed the secret transactions of Panamanian offshore service provider Mossack Fonseca on April 3, 2016. The data was received by the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and was evaluated by journalists around the world with the help of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in Germany by NDR, WDR and SZ.

The 115 million documents revealed 214,000 shell companies and shone a spotlight on anonymous shell company users. Drug cartels, tax evaders and organized crime have come to the fore, but so have heads of state. Following the revelations, Icelandic Prime Minister David Gunnlaugsson and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, among others, had to resign. There were protests in London, Reykjavik and other cities. Thousands of surveys have been launched around the world. Since then, stricter rules have applied in some places in the mailbox company world. Investigators from various countries have since recovered more than $1.3 billion in lost tax revenue.

“The Russian government wants me dead”

“Fascism and authoritarianism are on the rise all over the world,” said “John Doe” in the “Spiegel” interview. Russian President Vladimir Putin is one of the biggest threats to the United States, “and shell companies are his best friends.”

The Panama Papers had revealed, among other things, how millions of euros had been transferred via fictitious companies via Sergei Roldugin, a confidant of Putin who has since been sanctioned – one of the many financial flows that can be attributed to the closest friends relatives and family of the Russian President. .

“John Doe” says that as long as there are fictitious companies through which owners can conceal their activities and escape responsibility, almost nothing has been achieved. “Without accountability, societies cannot function.” Letterbox companies are involved everywhere, for example when they contribute to the financing of the Russian army.

According to the whistleblower, he was happy that Vladimir Putin’s friend Roldugin was punished. At the same time, he fears Russia’s revenge: “The Russian government wants me dead”. The Russian media had published a docu-fiction about the Panama Papers, in which was a fictional whistleblower who had been tortured. “It wasn’t subtle,” says John Doe.

Disappointment with Western states

Large international companies could also hide behind letterbox companies: “For example, Chinese conglomerates which are partly responsible for the deaths of cobalt prospecting miners in the Congo. Letterbox companies make this possible because they disguise their owners and thus release them from all responsibility”, explains “Jean biche”.

He was severely disappointed with Western countries: “I was ready to work with government authorities from the start because I knew the crimes described in the Panama Papers had to be prosecuted.” According to media reports, the German Federal Criminal Police Office paid five million euros for the data and passed on country-specific data to other countries.

“Offshore companies and trusts are important”

But overall, far too little has happened, according to the whistleblower: “Unfortunately, neither the German nor US governments have shown much interest in the Panama Papers.”

In the current situation, with many recently issued sanctions to be applied, governments have preferred to focus on the yachts of wealthy Russians. “Frankly, yachts are not very important outside of symbolic value. Offshore companies and trusts are important.”

Nevertheless, he was amazed at the consequences of the publication of the Panama Papers: “What the ICIJ has achieved is unprecedented and I am very happy and also proud that important reforms have taken place thanks to the Panama Papers. Unfortunately, all of this is still quite No.”

Publicly accessible business registers are needed around the world, from the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean to Delaware in the United States, so that no one can hide behind anonymous letterbox companies – there is no longer any doubt after the leak: “And if you hear resistance, then you hear the sound of a politician who should be fired.”

Source www.tagesschau.de

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