Mossack Fonseca is the law firm in Panama who specialise in incorporating companies for people who wish to have an offshore company, possibly in the jurisdiction of a country, sometimes just a tiny island nation, which will not charge them high taxes for parking their wealth in their jurisdiction.
The money itself does not need to be physically parked there, of course, it is merely the centre where the accounting of monies relating to such accounts is done. For example, people operate from London but issue their invoices from British Virgin Islands, thereby not paying tax to the U.K. government and having the fun and anonymity of having an offshore company. The fees for opening such accounts are not slim, perhaps $800 or £1000 to open the account, plus a yearly fee or a similar amount. Some of the offshore islands encourage patrons using them as a jurisdiction to visit their beautiful islands at least once a year, bringing in tourist dollars.
Now when I read about the Panama Papers, and the names revealed in the press, I was awe-struck at the amount of wealth some of the famous personalities have hidden away. The only questions for heads of state or leaders of nations is : what is so much wealth doing outside your country, when there are lines of people struggling for survival? Could all that money not be better spent invested in your own countries, doing good, perhaps supporting schools, orphanages, women's co-operatives, knitting and stitching enterprises, dispensaries, computer training, even libraries.
Whoever has leaked these documents, revealing as many as eleven million names, knows what they are up to. Apparently, the journalists who have got hold of these Panama Papers have been going over them with a fine toothcomb over the last four months, and only now releasing a few names. This is clearly designed to cause much upset in many nations. This is another version of Wikileaks, which ran past us all stories of events that had happened previously, only judiciously re-run at sensitive times.
The Russians are probably correct that the timing is to put questions into peoples' minds just before an upcoming election, creating doubts in peoples' minds about who they should support. It is an attempt to change the course of nations, it seems.
This is a saga which will continue many months into the future, creating work for investigative journalists as well as political activists. Today, the Prime Minister of Iceland has resigned. He was called upon to resign, with much mild whistling and banging of metal sticks by throngs crowding the streets of Rekyavik - all because it came to light that his wife had such an offshore account. Of itself, that should not have really cast any aspersions ; some people do keep such offshore accounts perhaps for retirement, something perfectly legitimate.
But these Panama Papers are hot stuff; they are likely to create much confusion in many lands.
I imagine they will be revealing names of prominent business people as well as perhaps rock superstars...such are the legion of the fabulous people who may have thought of finding ways of not paying taxes, in a perfectly legitimate way by domiciling their wealth in a tax-free haven. Little did anyone imagine that the papers would come to some snooper's attention, whether through a leak or through hacking, who knows. It is the stuff of talking points, bound to create changes in society.
The Panama Papers are likely to affect the globe over the next five to ten years. Interesting times ahead.