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What happens when a leaked set of 11.5 million confidential documents, amounting to 2.6 terabytes of data , gets into the hands of 400 journalists of 107 media organizations in around 80 countries?Well a global money laundering conspiracy is revealed. This global web of corruption and tax avoidance reveals has been dubbed by the media as “ Panama Papers”. And its discovery is significant because it reveals the massive amount of money that is being stored in off-shore accounts by global leaders, top-level businessmen, actors, athletes, and many others. Basically the who’s-who of the world have “deposited” their assets into these off-shore accounts and have used these tax havens to hide their wealth.

This big reveal comes from the leaked documents of a Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca ,which helped these individual to set up Panamanian shell companies to hold financial assets and in some cases also hide the identity of the real owners. The documents are said to cover the day-to-day business at Mossack Fonseca for over the past 40 years. And that means a lot of names and a huge amount of undeclared wealth.

The amount of data that has been uncovered makes the Wikileaks look tiny in comparison as this leak comprises of some 4,804,618 emails, 3,047,306 database format files, 2,154,264 PDFs, 1,117,026 images, 320,166 text files, and 2,242 files in other formats which include images of contracts and passports. These off-shore accounts are in the form of companies, trusts or foundations and are often used for simple privacy reasons . And the problem with these shell-companies is that you are hiding away yours and your near and dear one’s money from your government.

The implications of global money laundering can be linked to terrorism and drug trafficking but it also shows how the rich and the powerful avoid taxation. Tax Evasion is illegally refusing to pay taxes you owe, and then taking advantage of secret accounts to try to hide the money and get away with it. While Tax Avoidance, is hiring clever people to help you find and exploit legal loopholes to minimize your tax bill and while some of the Panama accounts are for the former others are for the latter.

The next big reveal from the Panama Papers, apart from the global level money laundering is the ease through which it has been possible. This shows us that if the rich, famous and powerful want to navigate through the channels to avoid taxation,they will find a way. And if the global leaders involve themselves in the same well the global economy will drown. As money that could be used for public benefit will be used to improve a person’s lifestyle. There is no way of knowing whether these companies are not fronts for terrorism or trafficking something which has global significance.

This whole thing showcase huge gaps in the banking and the taxation systems around the world. And also shows the lack of security when it comes to data. This leak gave us knowledge of corruption but it raises the question of privacy and how private data can be used for malicious intent. The huge interest is also generated because of the names and holdings of these accounts. The Iceland’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, had an undeclared interest linked to his wife’s wealth. While the country struggles. And so did a associates of Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, who faces a similar problem in his country. The name of Ian Cameron, the late father of British PM David Cameron has also been revealed and so did the brother-in-law of China’s President Xi Jinping. The Ukraine President, Argentina President and also of Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif. And his family members names have been revealed.

The football world has also faces allegations as the reveal touches worlds football’s governing body FIFA. Also revealing names of soccer players from Brazil, Uruguay, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Serbia, The Netherlands and Sweden among other countries including football legend Messi.

Closer home the names in the list include some 500 Indians linked to these offshore firms. People who are involved include KP Singh, Iqbal Mirchi,Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, , Adani elder brother among many more. Most of the people involved have denied the allegations.Which comes as a surprise to no one. But some like the Iceland PM had to resigned following public protest after the Panama scandal. The next few days will reveal more names and more information.

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Akanksha Jain

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