The heat generated by the Panama Leaks is felt around the world with leaders named in the scandal facing tough opposition and public reaction. It is not yet clear if the 12 current or former heads of state and their wealthy friends and family have done anything illegal. It will take a while to figure out whether those transactions were legal or illegal.
Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, is the first political casualty since the publication of the Panama Papers. The political turmoil in Iceland following the resignation of its prime minister is likely to bring forward its elections to the fall this year from April 2017. Gunnlaugsson was the first major public figure to resign after thousands of protesters took to the streets of Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital.
British Prime Minister, David Cameron, offered a passionate defence of his family’s tax affairs in the Commons as he battled the opposition. The prime minister went head to head in the Commons with Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, who said Cameron still had many questions to answer. He asked for more details about the £72,000 in shares Cameron sold in 2010.
A shaky Cameron defended himself by saying, “In terms of my own financial affairs, I own no shares. I have a salary as prime minister and I have some savings, which I get some interest from and I have a house, which we used to live in, which we now let out while we are living in Downing Street and that’s all I have.”
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, tried to shrug off the Panama Papers pressure by terming it a conspiracy to destabilise Russia. However, he will have to come up with some better explanation to silence his critics. At least two of Putin’s closest friends are named in the documents, which describe what appears to be a billion-dollar money laundering ring.
Those two men are said to be Sergei Roldugin, a childhood friend of Putin and godfather to Putin’s daughter, and Yuri V. Kovalchuk, the majority shareholder of Bank Rossiya.
Putin strongly denied there was “any element of corruption” in the massive leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. “They have found a few of my acquaintances and friends… and scraped up something from there and stuck it together.” And what is the purpose of such an exercise? “They are trying to destabilise us from within in order to make us more compliant,” he said.
Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, found himself in a political storm after leaked documents pointed to his offshore assets, with some adversaries calling for his removal from office. Poroshenko, who won election in 2014, clarified last week that he has done nothing wrong and hasn’t managed his assets since he was elected. Poroshenko had promised voters he would sell his candy business, Roshen, when he ran for office. But documents from the Panamanian law firm indicated that, instead, he set up an offshore holding company to move his business to the British Virgin Islands, possibly saving millions of dollars in Ukrainian taxes.
Panama Papers have brought Syrian President Basher al Assad into the limelight again — this time for financial wrongdoings. Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Assad — described as a “poster boy for corruption” — was implicated in the papers, the Guardian reports. While Assad is not specifically mentioned, the documents reveal “any foreign company seeking to do business in Syria had to be cleared by Rami.” Will the financial scandal help the embattled Syrians see some peace?
Argentine President, Mauricio Macri, has pledged to fight for his innocence when he appears before a federal prosecutor to explain his finances. An investigation began last week after Macri was listed in the Panama Papers as director of an offshore company in the Bahamas. In a televised address, he vowed to prove he had done nothing wrong. However, his opponents are sticking to their guns demanding that he should resign and face the probe.
The family of Chinese president Xi Jinping — who rails against the “armies of corruption” — obtained offshore companies through Mossack Fonseca. The documents also indicate offshore holdings of the families of at least seven other members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee.
When the Guardian published stories on the Chinese leadership last week, the paper’s website became partially blocked in China. The government has also continued to refuse to say anything about the global story. So far, the only official response to the documents was a spokesman calling the report “groundless”.
As investigators around the world struggle to untangle the mega financial scam, people are waiting for the final outcome.