If you are just waking up and you have no idea what Panama Papers mega leak is, here is an intro for you. Panama Papers is almost similar to Wikileaks and the leaks from Edward Snowden , only bigger. Actually, Panama Papers leaks is the biggest in history, with 11.5 million documents having been leaked to the Internet. The documents were first obtained by a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and subsequently became the subject of a yearlong investigations, led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and involving more than 100 publications from nearly 80 countries, results of which were leaked to the Internet a few days ago.
The 11.5 million documents which are 2.6 terabytes in data size originated from a law firm known as Mossack Fonseca. The law firm operates in 11 tax havens thereby enabling the mighty and powerful to stash money in offshore accounts in tax havens like British Virgin Island, Seychelles and Switzerland. The company specializes in helping companies and individuals set up offshore, tax exempt entities and is reportedly the world’s fourth largest provider of such services. The clients of Mossack Fonseca are the mightiest and richest in the world, including over 140 politicians from over 50 countries some of whom are the President of Argentina, Convicted former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Son of former President of Ghana, Nephew of President of South Africa, among the hundred other heads of states, their family members, and inner cycle associates. From Kenya, only Deputy Chief Justice and Vice President of the Supreme Court Judge Kalpana Rawal has featured.
According to Projects.icij.org that has combiled a list of world leaders mentioned in the Panama Papers, “Rawal and her husband were directors of two companies based in the British Virgin Islands, prior to her joining the nation’s Supreme Court. The family used other offshore companies to buy and sell real estate in London and nearby Surrey. Montague Real Estate SA was used in 2004 to buy a London flat for $1.12 million, which they sold in 2006. Innovate Global Limited was used to buy a house in Surrey for $2.74 million and a London apartment which they bought for $967,000 in 2004 and sold for $1.62 million in 2013. Through Arklyn International Limited, they bought another two London apartments, one bought for $1.66 million in 2005 and sold for $2.23 million in 2011, and the other bought for $1.57 million in 2005 and sold for $2.15 million in 2012.”
Judge Rawala has since responded to the allegations explaining that “she has not been involved with the family businesses except for generally knowing they were involved in real estate. She was listed as director on two of them without her knowledge by her husband when he was told two directors were required, she said. The first one never did any transactions and is dormant. The second one acquired a property. “My family members include my two adult sons residing in London, both of whom are British subjects and run the business as per the laws applicable in U.K.” She said has never had “any involvement direct or indirect and have no interest or control” in the other companies”.
So far the politicians and business men and women may breath with a sigh of relief together with the politicians of the US and a few other countries. However, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has warned that no politician should put on a smiling face as the 11.5 million documents are just but a tip of the iceberg. According to the newspapers, more dossiers of Panama Papers are coming – fast.
With most governments including Kenya promising to fight corruption, always citing lack of evidence for their inability to act on the suspected corrupt, it will be very interesting to watch what they will do with the information now available for everyone in form of bank transactions, passports, and correspondence stretching back 40 years.