• 2.6 terabytes of documents, related to hundreds of thousands of offshore companies, were leaked from a small Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca, which denies any wrongdoing.
  • The data from the law firm include links to politicians, celebrities, athletes and organizations that have been at the center of global scandals.
  • “I would say, first observation, it’s a lot more promising than even some of the other projects that we’ve done that have turned out to be very, very big,” said Gerard Ryle, a director at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Yesterday, news broke about the biggest leak of private financial and legal documents ever — and evidence shows that a significant amount of money spent was routed through companies and trusts that purchased expensive homes, buildings, resorts and other real estate holdings.

Dubbed the “Panama Papers,” 2.6 terabytes of documents, related to hundreds of thousands of offshore companies, were leaked from a small Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca, which denies any wrongdoing.

German publisher Süddeutsche Zeitung received the documents, revealing a complex maze of companies and offshore banks accounts in which billions of dollars was routed through a variety of accounts and names.

How is real estate involved?

Using the keywords “real estate,” “houses” or “properties” reveals hundreds of companies with the terms in their moniker. One example is “Billion Houses International Holdings Limited.”

A search of names does not in itself reveal specific holdings by these entities, and the data alone do not indicate that any unlawful acts were committed.

Drilling down can expose specific relationships to properties. For example, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that “Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud held an unspecified role in a Luxembourg company Safason Corporation SPF S.A., which was the shareholder of Verse Development Corporation, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 1999, and Inrow Corporation, incorporated in 2002.

“Inrow took out a mortgage in 2009 worth up to $26 million and Verse took out a second mortgage worth more than $8 million, both of which were for luxury homes in central London. While King Salman’s precise role is not specified, both mortgages are mentioned ‘in relation to’ him and his assets.”

Search the site for the data here and find information on high-profile people here.

Who’s in the papers, and where did they come from?

The data from the law firm include links to politicians, celebrities, athletes and organizations that have been at the center of global scandals.

German authorities were investigating the information for two years after a whistleblower turned over the trove of data, according to the story in the Süddeutsche Zeitung about the history of the Panama Papers’ leak.

Working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Munich paper has been collaborating with 100 reporters from news organizations to sift through the documents.

“I would say, first observation, it’s a lot more promising than even some of the other projects that we’ve done that have turned out to be very, very big,” said Gerard Ryle, a director at the ICIJ.

“The sheer number of people involved is becoming clear to us,” says Frederik Obermaier, from the Suddeutsche Zeitung’s investigative group.

“There are dictators, members of the Japanese Yakuza mafia, the Sicilian mafia, the Russian mafia, weapons dealers, drug dealers and pedophiles. You start to feel a little nervous when you realize this one leak is going to expose all of them…and that it all started at the Süddeutsche Zeitung.”

Email Brad Inman

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