Panama Papers source criticises New Zealand PM

RNZ | 7 May 2016

The anonymous leaker of the Panama Papers has spoken for the first time and has singled out Prime Minister John Key for criticism.

The offices of law firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama City.

The offices of law firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama City Photo: AFP

In a 1800-word statement, the whistleblower offered to help law authorities make prosecutions in return for immunity.

The source, “John Doe”, said they had never worked for a spy agency or a government. Although the name John Doe is used, the identity and gender of the source has not been revealed.

The papers, from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, have shown how some wealthy people use offshore firms to evade tax and avoid sanctions.

The documents reveal the hidden assets of hundreds of politicians, officials, current and former national leaders, celebrities and sports stars.

They list more than 200,000 shell companies, foundations and trusts set up in tax havens around the world. Mossack Fonseca denies any wrongdoing and says it is the victim of a hack.

The whistleblower was critical of official reactions to the leak, calling on Britain, the United States and the European Community to take “swift action” – but their leaders are not named.

The statement said Mr Key had been “curiously quiet” about New Zealand’s role in enabling the “financial fraud Mecca” of the Cook Islands.

In the statement “The Revolution will be Digitized”, the source starts by saying: “Income equality is one of the defining issues of our time.”

John Doe accused banks, financial regulators and tax authorities of having failed.

“Decisions have been made that have spared the wealthy while focusing instead on reining in middle- and low-income citizens.

“Thousands of prosecutions could stem from the Panama Papers, if only law enforcement could access and evaluate the actual documents.

“ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) and its partner publications have rightly stated that they will not provide them to law enforcement agencies. I, however, would be willing to co-operate with law enforcement to the extent that I am able.”

But the source adds: “Legitimate whistleblowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution.”

Responding to speculation about his or her identity, John Doe’s statement says: “For the record, I do not work for any government or intelligence agency, directly or as a contractor, and I never have.

“My viewpoint is entirely my own, as was my decision to share the documents with (German newspaper) Suddeutsche Zeitung and the ICIJ, , not for any specific political purpose, but simply because I understood enough about their contents to realise the scale of the injustices they described.”

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The anonymous source said he or she had not worked for any government or intelligence agency. Photo: AFP / 123RF

John Doe said global judicial systems had “utterly failed to address the metastasizing tax havens spotting Earth’s surface”.

“Shell companies are often associated with the crime of tax evasion, but the Panama Papers show beyond a shadow of a doubt that although shell companies are not illegal by definition, they are used to carry out a wide array of serious crimes that go beyond evading taxes,” the statement said.

The John Doe statement came shortly before US President Barack Obama delivered an address on the economy, in which he cited the Panama Papers as highlighting the problem of corruption and tax evasion.

He said the US would require banks to identify those behind shell corporations. Mr Obama said his administration’s actions would allow it to do a better job of making sure people paid taxes.

Panama-based Mossack Fonseca says it was hacked by servers based abroad and has filed a complaint with the Panamanian attorney general’s office. It says it has not acted illegally and that information was being misrepresented.

– BBC / ICIJ

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