By Nancy Landa
The largest global investigative effort yielded the Panama Papers, offering an unprecedented look at the obscurity of tax havens used by the world’s rich and powerful to hide their wealth. This is the largest leak in history (with 11 million leaked documents vs 250 thousand from WikiLeaks) which involved the international cooperation of 400 journalists in over 80 countries. This project emerged when the national German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitug decided to analyze data, provided by an anonymous source, in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIC).
The Panama Papers ties 12 heads of state, 200 politicians, prominent business executives, professional athletes, and celebrities of various countries to secret estate management structures set up Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm.
The leaked data includes emails and annexed PDF documents, covering a period spanning from the 1997 to the spring of 2016 and they disclose the secret routes of money transferred within a complex global banking system, many times through alleged money laundering or tax evasions schemes.
The following is a review of the Latin American media partners involved in the Panama Papers project, the issues raised and the implicated individuals in the region:
La Nación. Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, soccer icon Lionel Messi, former Minister of Interior Néstor Kirchner, Mayor of Lanús, Néstor Grindetti, and other business executives linked to Kirchnerism are among the hundreds of Argentinian clients that worked with Mossack Fonseca.
O Estado de S. Paulo, a regional news media publication compiled the main cases involving Brazilian executives, politicians and lobbyists that appear to be tied to the offshore companies created in Panama and it disclosed the business transactions between Brazil and Venezuela.
Rede TV releases two videos that explain the Panama Papers investigative report and the involvement of more than 57 Brazilians mentioned in the documents who are under investigation by the Federal Police.
UOL provides a review of all the Panama Papers in Brazil. It reveals that 107 offshore companies are linked to the case of Lava Jato. Exchanges between lobbyists and politicians of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) are also mentioned.
Ciper reveals the business relationships in the world of FIFA and soccer. It reports the hidden business that emerge between the founding member of the FIFA ethics committee, Juan Pedro Damiani with the former vice president of the agency, the Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo who is accused of fraud and money laundering. The Argentineans Hugo and Mariano Jinkings are accused of paying bribes to be awarded transmission rights of the FIFA championship matches. Ciper has announced that on Monday April 4 it will report on “la arista chilena”.
Connectas, a Colombian investigative journalism platform announced that more than 850 Colombians appear to be linked to the Panama Papers. Among the firm’s clients are current and former public officials, politicians from all levels, although the client list is mainly comprised of entrepreneurs.
Consejo de Redacción is mentioned as one of the participating Colombian partners in the investigation. However, it has yet to publish articles on its website or social networks.
Data Base AR. The research unit of AmeliaRueda.com discloses a fraud operation involving the president of the Soccer Federation, Hermes Navarro Vargas, his former company Borda Azul S.A., and how he managed to fool the Treasury and the judiciary of Costa Rica.
Semanario Universidad reveals the networks of business executives and bankers from Costa Rica to seek tax havens for their fortunes. According to the weekly publication, the leak allowed access to 74,958 documents related to Costa Rica, including 56,876 copies of emails, 9,858 images in PDF format, 3,851 images in TIFF format, 119 Excel Worksheets and 511 Word documents.
El Comercio. The Ecuadorian newspaper has published the most important cases of the Panama Papers with a brief mention that the Mossack Fonseca firm agreed to respond to a survey with one question related to their presence in Ecuador. El Comercio inquired about the number of clients since 2007 for which they answered that they have a type of franchise operation, and that their Ecuadorian office has their own administration, human and financial resources independent of the firm.
El Faro. In El Salvador, 220 companies registered in seven offshore tax havens and 33 clients (mainly attorneys) are involved. However, there eight clients that directly sought the services of Mossack Fonseca to set up their companies in Panama, are among them: one linked to the first government of Frente Frabundo Martí for National Liberation (FMNL), a member of the political party Arena, a businessman tied to political participation, and several media publications.
Aristegui Noticias revealed that Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, the builder of the “casa blanca” (White House) of President Enrique Peña Nieto, transferred a fortune to tax havens from the Caribbean to New Zealand as soon as an investigation was launch looking into the conflict of interest involving him and the President of Mexico. It also revealed that the two major television chains of Mexico making use of tax havens hired Mossack Fonseca.
Proceso, a weekly magazine, published that Mossack Fonseca established companies for business executives marked by corruption, sons of politicians, celebrities and even Mexican drug traffickers.
ABC Color identified a hundred cases linked to the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca. The stories involve politicians, families linked to the military dictatorship, companies linked to money laundering, firms with pending legal proceedings in Paraguay, and authorities of the South American Soccer Confederation (CONMEBOL). The names will be released in the coming days.
Convova. The Peruvian digital media reveals that there are more than 250 records of Mossack Fonseca’s Peruvian beneficiaries; at least 11 families in that country are involved. It also announces the publication of an interactive tool that will illustrate a network of 70 politicians linked to the Panama Papers as well as an interactive game for users to understand how the system of offshore companies work (to be launched).
IDL Reporteros. This Peruvian news site, in collaboration with Armando Info of Venezuela, reports that the ex-banker and former congressmember Francisco Pardo Mesones was the real beneficiary of a triangulation made by shell companies, which were used so that the government of Cuba would resell to Venezuela a technology for passports issued by the Bolivian government.
Ojo Público, revealed in its special edition that the Peruvian offshore financial operations over the last 15 years extend to the presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori. It also explains how Drago and Ivo Bozovick, the owners of Maderera Bozovich, the largest exporter of timber extracted from the Amazon, developed a hidden financial structure with Mossack Fonseca for more than a decade.
Centro de Periodismo Investigativo. The journalism platform in Puerto Rico released a summary of the most important cases of Panama Papers. It announced that on April 4 it will release more on the connections in Puerto Rico.
Búsqueda, the weekly magazine of Uruguay, is listed as one of the participating Latin American research partners of the investigative report. It has announced that on April 7 it will release more on the connections in Uruguay.
ArmandoInfo. “To see the underground economy of Venezuela, one has to take a dive in Panama” was the headline (translated from Spanish) in the Venezuelan publication. 241,000 documents were found linked to the Caribbean country. The leak exposed the businesses of the former Security Chief of Hugo Chavez, Adrián Velásquez; the former head of the social assistance program Bolívar 2000, Victor Cruz Weffer; Authorities of the State’s oil company PDVSA; business executives linked to the revolutionary government of Venezuela.
RunRun.Es. Journalist Lisseth Boon published a research paper on the Panama Papers on the Venezuelan General Cruz Weffer, who led one of the first Chavista social plans: Plan Bolivar 2000. In 2007, the Comptroller General of Venezuela had presented doubts about the sudden growth of the overall assets amounting to 86% of total resources that he once handled.
ElPitazo.com The Venezuelan publications explains how the auditor and former staff of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) has created an offshore company in Panama as well as the internal debate within Mossack Fonseca on whether or not they would take him as a client. It also tells the story of former security chief of Hugo Chavez, who maintains a company in a tax haven in the Republic of Seychelles.
Univision (U.S. Spanish Media)
Especial Los Papeles de Panamá. U.S. media outlet aimed at Spanish-speaking audiences covers numerous issues arising from the Panama Papers. Univision released the story of Leticia Montoya, a Mossack Fonseca local clerk whose name appears on 10,967 companies created by the Panamanian firm, as a kind of “front person”. Its reports cover: The Peruvian businessman Francisco Pardo Mesones and how he is behind a millionaire and opaque business with Cuba and Venezuela; Holman Carranza, son of a feared businessman in the emerald industry of Colombia, who is one of the beneficiaries from the creation of shell companies by the firm; The dealings of Mossack Fonseca with Marllory Chacón Rossell in Guatemala, who was identified as the most active in money laundering in the country and leader of a group belonging to the Sinaloa cartel.
Sources: Distintas Latitudes, Panama Papers, ICJC
Mexico-based Latina Lista contributor Nancy Landa is a migration scholar, activist, blogger and professional translator. She writes on transborder activism, her experience of being a deportee under the Obama Administration, and the social injustices migrants face due to the increasingly restrictive immigration policies in the Americas and beyond. Visit her bilingual blog at Mundo Citizen or follow Nancy on Twitter @MundoScholar.