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Mossack Fonseca Panama Papers
Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm has been hit by a massive leak of confidential documentRODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images
  • A massive leak of confidential documents has revealed how the world's elite use offshore tax havens to hide billions.
  • 11.5 million records of offshore holdings from secretive Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca were obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with more than 100 other media.
  • The data gave an insight on the private wealth of 72 current or former heads of state which have used shell companies and offshore accounts, often through close associates or family members.
  • Among leaders tied to offshore wealth are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan's PM Nawaz Sharif, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, the King of Saudi Arabia and Bashar al-Assad.
  • Mossack Fonseca denies any wrongdoing saying it has acted beyond reproach for 40 years.
Panama Papers: The 11.5m document leak explainedIBTimes UK
19:59

No new revelations from Panorama other than more explicit details of the deals and how they were structured - as well as a good bit of TV from Richard Bilton.

We're wrapping up our live blog for the day. Keep an eye on IBTimesUK for more revelations as and when they break throughout the night.

19:49

Bearer shares have been banned in many offshore finance centres but not in Panama, which is one of the reasons that the country is ranked extremely low on the OECD rank of tax havens.

A bearer share is basically a piece of paper that shows that you own a piece of the company, but is the only record of ownership and, as a result, allow owners to hide their assets. The BBC published a handy guide to bearer shares here.

19:45

Mossack Fonseca has denied that they were involved in any "illegitimate activities" in a statement to Reuters. The full story is here.

19:42

RUSI's Tom Keatinge was just on Panorama. He spoke to us about Islamic State (Isis) financing a couple of months ago.

Isis: British attacks on Daesh oil fields seek to 'strangle' terrorist finances in SyriaIBTimes UK

19:37
Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson
Iceland's prime minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson is facing calls to resign over revelations from the Panama PapersReuters

More pictures emerging of the protests in Iceland. Thousands have taken to the streets over claims that the country's leader, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, owned an offshore company, Wintris, with his wife.

19:32
Panama skyline
Strict financial laws and regulations have turned Panama into one of the most established tax havensGetty

For more information on Panama, check out IBTimesUK's profile from earlier today.

19:27

OK we're up - we will be updating the blog throughout.

19:24

A passport page that appears to show Bashar al-Assad's cousin, Rami Maklouf, stamped by HSBC is doing the rounds on social media.

IBTimesUK published a profile on the Makhlouf family recently after the death of Assad's mother, Anisa Makhlouf.

19:15

BBC's Panorama is due to air at 7.30 pm and it has been hinted that new revelations are due to come out relating to the Panama Papers.

But what are they likely to entail?

The speculation has been that new public figures may be linked to Mossack Fonseca, or more details given on those already revealed.

The BBC, for its part, is not giving anything away...

19:09

Meanwhile, IBTimesUK has analysed the impact of the scandal on offshore finance centres closer to home, including Jersey and Guernsey.

A trust company director in the island said that the Panama Papers scandal did not bode well for the Channel Islands. That said, he also argued that Jersey was a very different animal to Panama or the British Virgin Islands.

"Jersey isn't the sort of place where you're going to find someone like Gaddafi," he said, referring to the late Libyan dictator.

19:06
John Christensen

Tax expert John Christensen has written an in-depth piece for IBTimesUK in which he says that the Tax Justice Network is not surprised by the Panama Papers revelations.

"I welcome this leak and hope it will put pressure on the legal profession generally to clean up its act across the world, " he says.

18:54
Panama Papers
Former Uefa President Michel PlatiniReuters

The suspended UEFA president Michel Platini has responded to tax avoidance allegations made in the Panama Papers. He was named as managing an offshore company called Balney Enterprises Corp, Le Monde reported.

However a statement by Platini's spokesman said that former French footballer "wants to inform that, as he stated it many times to the journalists in charge of the investigation, all of his accounts and assets are known to the tax authorities in Switzerland, where he has been a fiscal resident since 2007", the Associated Press reported.

18:49

The US Justice Department has said that it will look at the documents to see they are evidence of corruption that could be prosecuted in the US, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile prosecutors in Spain have opened a money laundering probe, AFP news agency reports.

France has also opened a preliminary investigation with the financial prosecutors office saying, regarding several hundred French citizens mentioned in the leaked documents, that possible tax evasion "was likely to concern French taxpayers".

18:41

John Christensen, executive director of the Tax Justice Network has told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the Panama Papers show how law firms are no longer able to protect the identities of those who use offshore tax havens.

"I suspect that criminals and the business elites and the wealthy elites around the world will be losing their sleep in the coming weeks because the level of secrecy which they have been assured for decades can no longer be assured," he told the radio station.

18:30

A representative for the former prime minister of Georgia and multi-billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili said he had nothing to hide after his name was said to have appeared in the Panama Papers.

The Associated Press reported how Gia Volski from the ruling Georgian Dream party, told state TV that Ivanishvili "has nothing to hide and has never hidden anything".

18:23

The family of footballing great Lionel Messi has denied in a statement that he was involved in tax evasion.

The Barcelona star and his father were named as owners of a Panama company that had not been disclosed when there was a Spanish probe into their tax affairs.

The family said that the Panama company that the files referred to was an "inactive" company that never had any funds or active current accounts.

In a statement it said: "The Messi family wants to make clear that Lionel Messi has not carried out any of the acts attributed to him, and accusations he created a ... tax evasion plot, including a network of money-laundering, are false and insulting," AFP reported.

18:15

The Panama Papers reveal how a UK banker set up an offshore finance company allegedly used by the regime in North Korea to help sell arms and expand its nuclear weapons programme.

They show how Nigel Cowie, who lived in the hermit kingdom for two decades, was behind a Pyongyang front company called DCB Finance Limited. It was registered in the tax-free haven of the British Virgin Islands.

He said that the company was used for legitimate business and he was not aware of any unlawful transactions, The Guardian reported.

18:04

This YouTube live stream is broadcasting scenes in Iceland as demonstrators gather outside the country's parliament calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and fresh elections following his involvement in the Panama Papers scandal.

17:58

The German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which first obtained the Panama Papers has reported the extent of German involvement with Mossack Fonseca.
The majority of the country's banks, 28 in total, used its services. In Germany, in addition to Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, Commerzbank and BayernLB used the Panamania law firm.

17:32

France 24 has reported French authorities have opened an preliminary investigation into aggravated laundering and tax evasion in the wake of the Panama Papers leak.

17:13
Panama/ Mossack Fonseca
Reuters

While heavily censored Chinese news outlets have covered the Panama Papers scandal, focusing on Vladimir Putin and the US$2bn (£1.4bn) money trail that allegedly leads to the Russian President, one high profile group of Chinese figures were notable for their absence – the family of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At least eight top Chinese officials and associates, including President Xi Jinping's brother-in-law Deng Jiagui, are linked to offshore deals, IBTimes UK reports. They hid millions of dollars, according to an investigation of 11.5 million documents leaked from one of the world's largest offshore law firms.

17:04

As IBTimes UK has already reported, Jürgen Mossack, one of Mossack Fonseca's founding partners, was the son of a former SS soldier turned CIA spy.

According to German media, Mossack's father, Erhard Mossack was the equivalent of a senior corporal in the SS' combat division.

16:48
Panama Papers: Mossack Fonseca not responsible for ‘illegitimate activities’ says directorIBTimes UK

Ramon Fonseca, a founder and director of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca has told Reuters that the leak is part of "an international campaign against privacy".

"We're dedicated to making legal structures which we sell to intermediaries such as banks, lawyers, accountants and trusts, and they have their end-customers that we don't know," said Fonseca.

"We believe there's an international campaign against privacy. Privacy is a sacred human right (but) there are people in the world who do not understand that and we definitely believe in privacy and will continue working so that legal privacy can work," he said.

Fonseca has said in a separate statement to the Guardian newspaper, which has been given access to the Panama Papers by the Consortium of Investigative Journalists:

"It appears that you have had unauthorized access to proprietary documents and information taken from our company and have presented and interpreted them out of context."

16:33

The Ukrainian party Oleh Lyshako has opened the impeachment process against the country's president Perto Poroshenko and demanded a special parliamentary investigation in to the leader's involvement with offshore holdings, according to a statement by the radical party on Facebook.