theSkimm's Guide to

THE PANAMA PAPERS

THE STORY

You keep hearing about a new Burn Book called the Panama Papers.

WHY IS EVERYONE FREAKING OUT?

Because they’re more than 11 million documents that allegedly reveal offshore accounts and secret shell companies of politicians and public officials, plus other VIPs (celebs, athletes, really really rich people). So they’re the hottest thing to read since “Gone Girl.” The docs come from a Panama law firm called Mossack Fonseca that helped set up these shady companies and accounts. A group of reporters got their hands on these docs...and then aired the dirty laundering.

HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

An anonymous source spilled the digital beans last year. Nobody knows who it is. And here comes the next Aaron Sorkin show.

SO WHO MIGHT BE IN TROUBLE?

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

IT SOUNDS LIKE 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. The same Icelandic banks that the PM helped bail out after the ‘08 financial crisis. Helloooo, conflict of interest, goodbye, Mr. Gunnlaugsson.

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 ‘Putinphobia.’ The struggle is real.

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 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 into the papers, including the US.

ARE AMERICANS INVOLVED?

Yes and no. There are American names on the list, but no one you’ve heard of yet. Reporters are allegedly still combing through the docs. So you’ll have to wait to find out who’s red, white and busted.

theSKIMM

The Panama Papers have been described by Edward Snowden himself as the “biggest leak in the history of data journalism” and they could eventually expose mass corruption in governments all over the world. And possibly give Snowden a new pen pal.