As the shock from the initial revelation of leaked Mossack Fonseca files fades away, one recurring question has emerged: why were there no American clients of the firm named (at least not yet)? After all, leaders in Iceland, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Australia and many other nations are already facing questions about their use of the Panamanian law firm, and yet nothing about the US?
One hint may have emerged when observing at the funding supporters of the project, among which we find George Soros’ heavily financially connected Open Society:
Recent ICIJ funders include: Adessium Foundation, Open Society Foundations, The Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Fritt Ord Foundation, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, The Ford Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts and Waterloo Foundation.
Clearly, this would imply editorial intervention by the funding sources due to a potential “conflict of interest”, although hopefully not as that would undermine the objective nature of this massive journalistic undertaking.
There may be a simpler explanation: as Eoin Higgins points out, the 2010 United States—Panama Trade Promotion Agreement included a taxation clause that effectively shut down any chance of the rich in the US using Panama as a shelter.
The Tax Information Exchange Agreement includes a clause, Article 5, that specifies the terms of information sharing between the two countries on tax related matters:
The competent authority of the requested Party shall provide upon request by the competent authority of the requesting Party information for the purposes referred to in Article 1 of this Agreement. Such information shall be exchanged without regard to whether the requested Party needs such information for its own tax purposes or the conduct being investigated would constitute a crime under the laws of the requested Party if it had occurred in the territory of the requested Party.
The Article goes on to make clear that Mossack Fonseca’s type of services would particularly be included in the information request.
According to Higgins, “if Panama had ever been an attractive destination for American offshore storage of funds, this agreement shut the door on that possibility.”
Perhaps. However that does not explain why according to an interactive map created by Brian Kilmartin which lays out shotgun data (no names) about the number of companies, clients, beneficiaries and shareholders of Mossack Fonseca, there are at least 441 clients, 3,072 companies, 211 beneficiaries and 3,467 U.S.-based shareholders of the Panamanian law firm.
It also does not explain why according to primary data compiled in Fusion’s interactive universe, one can find an abundance of US-based nodes in the client/company/shareholder and beneficiary map (highlighted in blue).
Indicatively with 441 clients, the US is among the countries with the most clients served by Mossack Fonseca.
So who are these 441 clients, and why has the ICIJ decided not to reveal any of them?
Or perhaps it will all be revealed in due course.
According to a tweet by a tech editor at Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeiting – the outlet that received the original leak – there will be more disclosures forthcoming.
Still, one can’t help but wonder: why not do a Wikileaks type data dump, one which reveals if not all the 2.6 terabytes of data due to security concerns, then at least the identities of these 441 US-based clients.
After all, with the rest of the world has already been extensively shamed, it’s only fair to open US books as well