MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Panama-based law firm is under fire after a massive document leak allegedly showed how they may have have helped the rich and famous hide billions of dollars offshore.
The so-called ‘Panama Papers’ are already being dubbed, ‘the Wikileaks of the mega-rich.’
The leak could have a chilling effect on Miami’s condo market where multi-million dollar cash deals from foreign investors are common place.
Federal authorities are already scrutinizing large cash deals in South Florida to find out where the funds come from. The concern is some of the money may be illicit.
“The same system that politicians and the mega wealthy and billionaires are using to move money and do transactions is also being used by criminals….drug kingpins,”said journalist Michael Hudson.
An international coalition of media outlets on Sunday published what it said was an extensive investigation into the offshore financial dealings of the rich and famous, based on data and internal documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, said the cache of 11.5 million records, which was provided by an anonymous source, detailed the offshore holdings of a dozen current and former world leaders, as well as businessmen, criminals, celebrities and sports stars.
“This really told us something about how the off-shore financial system works, and especially about who are the kinds of people who are using it,” said Hudson.
The Associated Press wasn’t immediately able to verify the allegations made in articles that were published by the more than 100 news organizations around the world involved in the investigation.
Mossack Fonseca called the leak “a crime” and stressed to Agence France-Presse “we have no responsibility in how these companies were used.”
Among the countries with past or present political figures named in the reports are Iceland, Ukraine, Pakistan, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The Guardian newspaper, which took part in the investigation, published a video on its website late Sunday showing an interview with Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.
During the interview with Sweden’s SVT television, the prime minister was asked about a company called Wintris, to which he responded by insisting that its affairs are above board and calling the question “completely inappropriate,” before breaking off the interview.
The office of Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, confirmed on Sunday that the business group owned by his family set up Fleg Trading Ltd., an offshore company based in the Bahamas.
But it said Macri himself had no shares in Fleg and never received income from it.
Macri’s office commented after La Nacion, an Argentine national newspaper, reported that he and his family had links to Fleg.
And while he’s not named directly,the documents show allies to Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies.
Kremlin officials said the leak of the confidential documents was part of a plot to destabilize Russia.