Panama Papers: Whistleblower willing to co-operate with police

Source of 11.5 million leaked documents believes ‘thousands of prosecutions’ may result

Law firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama City, which specialises in setting up offshore companies, is at the center of the Panama Papers controversy. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Law firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama City, which specialises in setting up offshore companies, is at the center of the Panama Papers controversy. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images


The source behind the Panama Papers, the largest leak in the history of data journalism, has said he is willing to co-operate with law enforcement agencies.

In a statement issued through Suddeutsche Zeitung, the unidentified whistleblower said he believed “thousands of prosecutions” could stem from the leak, if law enforcement agencies could access the documents.

However he said he has watched as whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden, who leaked the NSA records and Bradley Birkenfeld, the source behind the Swissleaks, have had their lives destroyed after shining an obvious light on wrongdoing.

The Revenue Commissioners and tax authorities around the world have been trying to get access to the data and, working through the OECD, have set up an international network for sharing information relation to the data leak. The Irish Times has said it will not accede to a request from the Revenue to hand over files in the data linked to Ireland.

The anonymous whistleblower told Suddeutsche Zeitung he was motivated by growing global income inequality and corruption and said politicians, regulators, tax authorities, the media, and the legal profession, were all failing to deal with a problem that was creating a system of “economic slavery”.

He described the UK’s overseas territories, which include the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands, as the “cornerstone of institutional corruption worldwide”, and called on the United States Congress to step in and force transperancy on US states that offer corporate secrecy regimes.

The Panama Papers is a leak of approximately 11.5 million documents from the files of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the largest providers of offshore services in the world.

Suddeutsche Zeitung shared the leak with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington DC, which in turn shared the documents with its media partners around the globe, including The Irish Times.

The simultaneous publication of stories based on the leak by The Irish Times and other media groups on April 3rd caused global outrage, led to multiple political controversies, and prompted the authorities in China to try to set up an Internet firewall.

The use of offshore companies and offshore services is legal but the leak showed that such services are also used by some world leaders and their associates to hide their assets, as well as by people involved in sanctions busting and other offences.

The ICIJ, The Irish Times, and the other media groups involved in the project, are to publish the company names, shareholder names, and the names of the beneficial owners identified in the massive data leak on Monday, but the documents themselves are not being disclosed.

The source, in a statement released on Friday, said the ICIJ and its media partners had “rightly said” they will not share the documents with law enforcement agencies, but that he would be willing to co-operate with the authorities to the extent he is able.

The source called on new measures to protect whistleblowers. “Legitimate whistleblowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution, full stop.

Until governments codify legal protections for whisteblowers into law, enforcement agencies will simply have to depend on their own resources or on-going global media coverage for documents.”

In the meantime, he said, he called on the European Commission, the British Parliament, the United States Congress, and all nations, to take swift action not only to protect whistleblowers, but to put an end to the global abuse of corporate registers.

“The United Kingdom can be proud of its domestic initiatives thus far, but it still has a vital role to play by ending financial secrecy on its various island territories, which are unquestionably the cornerstone of institutional corruption worldwide.”

Income inequality, he said, is one of the defining issues of our time and affects everyone, the world over. The Panama Papers, he said, provide a compelling answer to the question as to why the “sudden acceleration” of inequality has continued, despite global debate on the problem. The answer, he said, was “massive, pervasive corruption”.

The collective failure to deal with the problem has led to a “complete erosion of ethical standards, ultimately leading to a novel system we still call Capitalism, but which is tantamount to economic slavery.”

The fact that a whistleblower had to sound the alarm signals that democracy’s checks and balances have failed, and that severe instability could be just around the corner, the source said. Revolutions in the past have occurred because of matters to do with taxation and imbalances of power. Then, the military was used to subjugate people “whereas now, curtailing information access is just as effective or more so”.

“Yet we live in a time of inexpensive, limitless digital storage and fast internet connections that transcend national boundaries.

“It doesn’t take much to connect the dots: from start to finish, inception to global media distribution, the next revolution will be digitised. Or perhaps it has already begun.”

The full statement can be read on the ICIJ website.