Only a few corporations set up by the Panamá law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co. involve Costa Rican entities. The question remains how many Costa Rican individuals will show up on corporate records elsewhere.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made good on its promise to release the searchable database of 11.5 million documents involving 200,000 offshore entities linked to account holders in more than 200 countries and territories.
The database fuses basic corporate information from the stolen documents and similar data from a 2013 International Consortium investigation into international tax shelters.
This is the latest in leaked journalism, and the first to involve private documents. Edward Snowden leaked U.S. government documents showing widespread surveillance. Even the famous 1971 Pentagon Papers case involved U.S. government documents.
In all cases, those who initiated the leak, including the anonymous Panamá Papers source, say they did it for high motives. Snowden and The New York Times in 1971 were reporting duplicity by the U.S. government.
That is not the case with the Panamá Papers. The anonymous source behind the leak of the Panamá Papers says “income inequality is one of the defining issues of our time,” and that governments need to do more to address the issue.
Even the International Consortium admits that “There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to
suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.” The organization includes a pitch for donations with the data base.
Back in 1971 editors at The New York Times wrung their hands and considered the facts at length before publishing information for stolen government documents. Not so today. The local El Semanario at the Universidad de Costa Rica gleefully published a lengthy article about a Movimiento Libertario politician whose name turned up as a notary in a Mossack Fonseca document. Some expats told reporters later that they thought incorrectly the man had done something bad.
El Semanario continues to rail about the rich and powerful.
Reporting when the documents were released selectively found involvement in offshore companies by an assortment of the powerful or prominent. Among them: 140 politicians, including 12 current and former political leaders; billionaires; sports stars; drug smugglers and mafia members. Also listed were at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the U.S. government for evidence of involvement in wrongly doing business with Mexican drug lords or with rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran.
News of their reliance on tax havens led to resignations by Iceland’s Prime Minister David Gunnlaugson and Spain’s Industry Minister José Manuel Soria. British Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to answer questions about an offshore trust established by his father. Russian President Vladimir Putin denied any allegations of involvement in wrongdoing after the names of some of his friends became public.