I was wrong.
The Panama Papers didn’t reveal that 200 people in the United States benefited from tax havens arranged by Mossack Fonseca. It’s more like 2,400 United States-based clients over the past decade who were able to skirt or evade U.S. tax and financial disclosure laws, according to the New York Times.
Many of these transactions were legal; there are legitimate reasons to create offshore accounts, particularly when setting up a business overseas or buying real estate in a foreign country.
But the documents — confidential emails, copies of passports, ledgers of bank transactions and even the various code names used to refer to clients — show that the firm did much more than simply create offshore shell companies and accounts. For many of its American clients, Mossack Fonseca offered a how-to guide of sorts on skirting or evading United States tax and financial disclosure laws.
These included locating an individual from a “tax-convenient” jurisdiction to be the straw man owner of an offshore account, concealing the true American owner, or encouraging one client it knew was a United States resident to use his foreign passports to open accounts offshore, again to avoid scrutiny from regulators, the documents show.
If the compliance department at one foreign bank contacted by Mossack Fonseca on behalf of its clients started to ask too many questions about who owned the account, the firm simply turned to other, less inquisitive banks.
And even though the law firm said publicly that it would not work with clients convicted of crimes or whose financial activities raised “red flags,” several individuals in the United States with criminal records were able to turn to Mossack Fonseca to open new companies offshore, the documents show.
That’s not my fault. That’s the fault of a tiny group at the top and the army of accountants and money-launderers they’ve hired to hide their wealth.