Iceland PM just one of a dozen world leaders implicated by Panama Papers, but Putin, Xi has perfect excuses for leaks

By @hannahc_evans on
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Pigeons fly past a poster depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (R) pasted on the Brancusi Atelier by activists from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to mark the 20th annual World Press Freedom day in Paris, May 3, 2013. The slogan reads, "Without freedom of information, no counter-power". Reuters/Benoit Tessier

While Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was the first political casualty of the Panama Papers, resigning from his position on Tuesday following mass protests by citizens, it seems his Russian and Chinese counterparts have escaped unscathed. 

The world’s largest document leak from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm, allegedly shows how its clients, which includes 12 current and former world leaders, had set up offshore companies to launder money and dodge taxes.

Apart from Gunnlaugsson, who together with his wife are accused of hiding million-dollar investments in a British Virgin Islands company which held millions of dollars in bonds in Iceland’s collapsed banks during the country's financial crisis, dominant officials involved in the leaks include Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s communist leader, President Xi Jinping

But both Putin, who the leaks suggest has close links with people involved in laundering as much as $2 billion, and Xi were quick to shut down the allegations.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the allegations were aimed at discrediting the Russian President, reports the ABC.

“Putin, Russia, our country, our stability and the upcoming elections are the main target, specifically to destabilise the situation,” Peskov said.

RTXZM1J Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) listens to his spokesman Dmitry Peskov prior to a joint news conference.  Reuters/Maxim Shipenkov

Chinese media also avoided reporting on links between its communist leaders such as President Xi and money laundering, with newspapers alleging “hostile Western forces” were behind the leaked documents.

Chinese journalists were even demanded to delete “all content related to the Panama Papers leak case”, according to instructions seen by the AFP.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was also associated with the documents, as his late father, Ian, was a client of Mossack Fonseca and opened an offshore company that paid no British taxes.

Britain’s overseas territory, the British Virgin Islands, was revealed to be the most popular 'tax haven destination' for companies set up by Mossack Fonseca.

RTSDUSZ Chart showing top 10 most popular tax havens mentioned in the Panama Papers’ document leak.  Reuters

The Panama leak that included more than 11 million documents were first obtained by a German newspaper and spread by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The more than 214,000 offshore companies identified were revealed by ICIJ to be connected to people in over 200 countries.

Whilst it is not illegal to have an offshore company, the Panama Papers show 40 years’ worth of documents exposing Mossack Fonseca had clients linked to bribery, tax evasion, arms deals and financial fraud.

Meanwhile, Mossack Fonseca has responded to the ICIJ stating, “Before we agree to work with a client in any way, we conduct a thorough due-diligence process, one that in every case meets and quite often exceeds all relevant local rules regulations and standards to which we and others are bound.”