The rich and powerful use elaborate shell corporations and offshore bank accounts to hide their wealth, according to stories released Sunday by an international group of journalists.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, spent a year combing through a cache of 11.5 million records detailing offshore holdings of some current and former world leaders, businessmen, criminals, celebrities and sports stars.
The trove of information was first leaked to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung about a year ago. It is confident the material is legitimate.
“The Panama Papers” detail more than 214,000 offshore accounts set up from 1977 to 2015 by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which has offices all over the world.
"To our knowledge this is the biggest leak that journalists have ever worked on," Bastian Obermayer, a reporter for Sueddeutsche Zeitung told The Associated Press.
More than 300 journalists looked over the documents which include emails, spreadsheets, passports and corporate records. The stories they pieced together show how the powerful use banks, law firms and shell companies to hide assets.
The documents include information about Russian President Vladimir Putin, details about England’s gold heist in 1983 and corruption surrounding FIFA, according to The Hill.
Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information from the National Security Administration surveillance activities in 2013, called it the biggest leak in the history of data journalism.
As more of the documents are published more of those involved will be revealed.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.