The Panama Papers, as they are called today, were leaked by an anonymous source in 2015. They contained 11.5 million documents detailing financial and attorney/client information taken from the Panamanian law firm and wealth management services of Mossack Fonseca, the fourth biggest offshore law firm worldwide.
The leaked documents contain identity information about the shareholders and directors of 214,000 shell companies. These companies were set up by Mossack Fonseca as well as some of their financial transactions. While having offshore accounts is not illegal, not reporting them to the IRS is a violation of the Foreign Bank and Financial Account (FBAR) in the US.
According to The Economist, “The most obvious use of offshore financial centers is to avoid taxes. Tax havens are at the core of a global system that allows large corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share.”
The list of names in the papers included heads of states from around the world, including Vladimir Putin, Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina and Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, members of organized crime cartels, wealthy individuals including 9 from the US, and celebrities such as Stanley Kubrick, David Geffen, Emilio Estevez and Bobby Fischer. Sports stars Tiger Woods and MBL player Alfonso Soriano.