Panama Papers leak not specifically directed against Russia – ICIJ head
Russian President Vladimir Putin was not the target of the Panama Papers leak, according to the head of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who has said the batch of more than 11.5 million files aimed to shed light on murky offshore practices internationally.
“As you see now, it wasn’t a story about Russia. It was a story about the offshore world,” Gerard Ryle, the head of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) told TASS.
Ryle’s statement comes in stark contrast to international media coverage of the “largest leak in offshore history.” Although neither Vladimir Putin nor any members of his family are mentioned in the papers, many outlets chose the Russian president’s photo to illustrate the revelations when leading with the story. For instance, the British media appeared unified in their efforts to bash Putin, while at the same time turning a blind eye to the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron’s father was included in the lists of those allegedly complicit in tax evasion. Some 76 percent of British media outlets mentioned the Russian president by name in their stories, while only 24 percent noted Cameron’s family role in the illicit offshore dealings.
“Such ‘leaks,’ in our view, are meant to target audiences overseas. It is also clear that the degree of Putinophobia has reached a point where to speak well about Russia, or about some of its actions and successes, is impossible. One needs to speak [about Russia] in negative terms, the more the better, and when there's nothing to say, you need to make things up. This is obvious to us,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, commenting on the mass anti-Putin media hysteria triggered by the publications.
Speaking about the extent to which the information on secret offshore deals will be revealed, Ryle stressed that the consortium and its media partners will not make all the data they possess public.
“We haven’t disclosed the whole database and we’re not going to,” said Ryle.
‘Unfortunately no info on American politicians’
The papers unveiled the offshore assets of some 140 politicians and public servants all over the world, including 12 incumbent and former world leaders, but will not provide a glimpse into the life of the US political elite, as there’s no such information in the batch, Ryle confirmed.
Editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung responded to the lack of U.S. individuals in the documents, saying "Just wait for what is coming next"— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) 3 апреля 2016 г.
“[The] Panama documents do not contain data on American politicians,” he told TASS, adding that they won’t be publishing any material on US politicians in future.
“Unfortunately, we do not have such data,” he said. However, Ryle did hint that the consortium is yet to publish info on “many Americans” when addressing the surprising absence of US citizens’ names in the leak.
Following the publication of the papers by several major outlets on Sunday, the Panama authorities announced they would be launching an investigation into the offshore activities of companies registered by the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.
“The facts described in national and international communication media publications under the term ‘Panama Papers’ will be the subject of criminal investigation,” the state prosecutor’s office stated on Monday.
The country’s president, Juan Carlos Varela, pledged to cooperate with “whatever government and whatever investigation” in an attempt to “defend the image of the country,” which has long been known as a “tax haven.”
In Iceland, thousands of people took to the streets of the capital Reykjavik to rally for the ouster of PM Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who had reportedly failed to declare his stake in an offshore company, jointly owned by him and his wife.
Despite the PM’s claims that the company was in fact paying taxes to the state budget, enraged citizens demanded a no-confidence vote and new elections.
The documents, which have been making headlines since Sunday, were initially leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) a year ago by an unknown hacker. According to the paper, the hacker wasn’t interested in financial compensation. SZ then forwarded the documents to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for closer analysis.