Panama Papers – Shady World of Offshore Companies
Das Erste/NDR (2016)
The Panama Papers is a German documentary about the infamous Panamanian law firm Mosack Fonseca, exposed by the Panama Papers leak* in 2015. The law firm, which has offices in 48 countries, assists banks, corporations, heads of state, drug lords and Mafia dons in creating offshore corporations to escape taxes, pension obligations and criminal prosecution in their own countries. In all, Mossack Fonseca has created over 214,000 offshore companies.
The film makers have a particular interest in the German partner, Jurgen Mossack, who immigrated to Panama as a child.
Among the Mossack Fonseca clients highlighted are an Israeli diamond merchant who used his offshore company to bribe a Guinean dictator for free iron mining rights. He later sold them to Brazil for $500 million dollars. Also featured is former Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, who was forced to step down and he and his wife were discovered to have offshore companies created by Mossack Fonseca.
My favorite segment is the one where the filmmaker goes online to set up his own offshore company for 3,000 euros. Within a week, he receives an official Panamanian address for his company and the minutes of an extraordinary meeting called by the company’s board of trustees. He then flies to Panama to visit his company office – which turns out to be an unoccupied floor in a Panama City office building.
*In 2015 a Mosack Fonseca whistleblower leaked 11 million documents (mainly emails) to a small German newspaper – which immediately shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.