theSkimm's Guide to

THE PANAMA PAPERS

LAST UPDATED JUL 20, 2017

THE STORY

You've probably heard about that 2016 Burn Book called the Panama Papers. We're here to break down why they're important.

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, 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 back in 2015. Nobody knows who it is. And here comes the next Aaron Sorkin show.

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. 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 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 into the papers, including the US.

WERE ANY AMERICANS INVOLVED?

Yes. There are 36 American names on the list, but probably nobody you’ve ever heard of. Many of the people listed had already been convicted of fraud or other crimes when the Panama Papers came out. 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 have exposed corruption all over the world.

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