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The anonymous informant who leaked the Panama Papers reveals motives

The leak prompted the Obama administration to announce new measures on Friday to combat tax evasion and money laundering
6 May 2016 – 03:44 PM EDT

The anonymous informant who leaked the "Panama Papers" has stepped forward to explain the motives behind the disclosure of millions of confidential documents that rocked world leaders and other public figures linked to murky companies in tax havens.

The informant, who has yet to reveal its identity, said their decision to leak the documents of the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca was made because “the founders (of the firm), its employees and clients must answer for their role in the crimes” unearthed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

“The law firm, its founders and employees violated numerous laws around the world, repeatedly and knowingly. Publicly, they claim ignorance. But the documents show detailed knowledge and deliberate wrongdoing. It will take years, perhaps decades, for all of the company's sleazy actions to become fully known,” the informant said in a lengthy statement.

The Obama administration on Friday announced new financial regulations that would force companies to disclose more information about their owners, as part of a crackdown on tax evaders and money launderers.

President Barack Obama linked the new measures to the "Panama Papers" leak.

"We've seen just how big a problem corruption and tax evasion have become around the globe," Obama said Friday at the White House "These actions are going to make a difference. they will allow us to continue to do a better job on tracking financial flows and making sure that people are paying taxes they owe.," he added.

The informant's statement, obtained by Univision Noticias, also claims that several important news media had access to the documents or were alerted to their existence before the ICIJ started to publish the results of its global investigations, but chose not to join the inquiries.

“The sad truth is that among the most prominent and capable news media in the world, not one was interested in reporting this story. Not even WikiLeaks responded to repeated tips,” the informant wrote, without identifying the news outlets.

The Panama Papers project is a year-long set of investigations by 370 journalists, published starting on April 3 by 109 news media – including Univision Noticias – in 75 countries and in 25 languages. It was led by the ICIJ and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Among the important news media not taking part in the investigations was The New York Times, which recently became one of the few organizations to publicly explain the motives for their decision not to participate.

Times Deputy Executive Editor Matt Purdy said last month the newspaper was not aware of the ICIJ project and did not have access to the documents. ICIJ Deputy Director Marina Walker, confirmed the Times was not asked to participate in the effort because of differences during previous investigative projects. It is not known whether the Times was one of the prominent news media the anonymous informant referenced his statement, sent recently to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The statement by the informant, who has been identified only as John Doe, says that the Panama Papers reveal the true cause of inequality around the world – massive and perverse corruption.

It offers no personal details but says the informant does not work for any government.

“For the record, I do not work for any government or intelligence agency, directly or as a contractor, and have never done so. My opinions are purely my own and I made the decision to share the documents with Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Journalists. Without any specific political motive, but simply because I understood enough of their content to know the magnitude of the injustices they describe,” the statement said.

Global project

More than a year ago, two reporters at the Süddeutsche Zeitung, based in Munich, received millions of confidential documents from the archives of Mossack Fonseca, a powerful but until then little-known law firm founded in Panama in the 1970s. It currently has branches in Hong Kong, Miami, Zurich and 35 other cities around the world.

The law firm is one of the leading creators of companies which can be used to hide the identities of the true owners of real estate properties and other types of wealth.

The leaked documents – about 11.5 million – cover a period of nearly 40 years. Journalists involved in the ICIJ investigations have so far identified 214,488 entities (companies, foundations and trusts) and 14,153 Mossack Fonseca clients, most of them middlemen who represent thousands of others.

The investigation forced the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, when it revealed his failure to report that he owned an offshore company with his wife. It showed how several allies of President Vladimir Putin moved millions of dollars from Russian state banks to banking havens. It also forced the resignation of scores of functionaries around the world and triggered raids in a dozen countries, among them a raid of the Mossack Fonseca headquarters in Panama City.

The ICIJ will make public a database Monday that contains the names of people and companies around the world identified so far by the journalists.

In a letter sent by Mossack Fonseca Thursday, the law firm asked the ICIJ to halt the release of the database because the leak of documents amounted to “a theft of information and a violation of the client-lawyer confidentiality agreement, which we are required to protect.”