Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Cubans and the Panama Papers


The Panama Papers is a collection of 11.5 million documents (2.6 terabytes) that was leaked by an anonymous source to Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), a German newspaper. The documents were from the internal files of Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that creates anonymous offshore companies around the world. The database on 320,000 offshore companies may be accessed here.

SZ did not have the staff and resources to analyze that many documents, so they decided to cooperate with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a global network of more than 190 journalists in more than 65 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories.

(The story of this massive, Internet-based collaboration is amazing in its own right. For more on the ICIJ and the methodology of this investigation, check out this excellent 15 minute podcast, with transcript).

Three weeks ago, we learned that the leaked data revealed the existence of dozens of businesses associated with senior figures in Cuba.

Now the Miami Herald has published an in-depth story showing that the Cuban government used Mossack Fonseca to "create a string of companies in offshore financial havens that allowed it to sidestep the U.S. embargo in its commercial operations." They have identified at least 25 companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and the Bahamas that are linked to Cuba, enabling the Cuban government to import and export goods and invest funds abroad.

Twenty five companies linked to Cuba

For investigative reporter Nora Gámez Torres' video summary (2m 20s) of her findings click here.

I have the feeling that this story is just beginning to unravel. It is depressing.

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Update 12/20/2016

The ICIJ is looking at the US election and ties to Russia and has discovered that Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has had direct involvement in Exxon’s extensive network of companies based in the Bahamas. ExxonMobil created at least 67 companies based in the island tax haven, which were involved in operations spanning from Russia to Venezuela to Azerbaijan, according to ICIJ’s documents from the Bahamas corporate registry.

Tillerson's Exxon stock is estimated to be worth $228 million, creating a conflict of interest.

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