Paris: A massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents has exposed the secret offshore dealings of aides to Russian president Vladimir Putin, world leaders and celebrities including Barcelona forward Lionel Messi.
An investigation into the documents by more than 100 media groups, described as one of the largest such probes in history, revealed the hidden offshore dealings in the assets of around 140 political figures.
The vast stash of records was obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with media worldwide by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The documents, from around 214,000 offshore entities covering almost 40 years, came from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm with offices in more than 35 countries.
The investigations allege close associates of Putin, who is not himself named in the documents, “secretly shuffled as much as USD 2 billion through banks and shadow companies”.
Twelve current or former heads of state are named in the investigations, including the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine and the king of Saudi Arabia, as well as sporting and movie stars like Jackie Chan.
They allege Chinese President Xi Jinping’s family has links to offshore accounts, as did the father of British Premier David Cameron, and claim Iceland’s prime minister secretly owned millions of dollars of bank bonds during the financial crisis.
Xi has led a high-profile anti-graft drive in China, targeting excessive wealth amassed by Communist Party cadres.
The papers also cast fresh light on the corruption scandal engulfing football’s world governing body, revealing that FIFA ethics committee member Juan Pedro Damiani had business ties with three men who have been indicted over the probe.
Disgraced UEFA chief Michel Platini allegedly used Mossack Fonseca to administer an offshore company, while Messi and his father apparently own a shell company not discovered in a Spanish investigation into the football star’s tax affairs.
Platini’s communications service said in a statement sent to AFP that “all of his accounts and assets are known to the tax authorities in Switzerland, where he has been a tax resident since 2007”.