Wednesday 27 April 2016

It’s a Vulnerable World: Panama Papers Edition

Panama Papers, SumRando Cybersecurity, VPN, Secure Messenger, Web ProxyApril 2016 kicked off with the largest data leak in history: 11.5 million documents from the database of offshore Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. These “Panama Papers” have since disclosed the many ways wealthy individuals from around the world hide money and evade taxes, both legally and illegally. 

In the last month, politicians have stepped down, newspaper editors have been fired and countless investigations have begun. As we wait to see exactly what comes of the Panama Papers, what’s clear is that the leak has already shed much-needed light on many behind-the-scenes practices.

Because of the Panama Papers, concerns have been raised, voices have been heard and action has been taken:

  • In Pakistan, opposition politician Imran Khan has responded to the Panama Papers leak by demanding a more thorough investigation of the role played by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children, who were cited as owning three offshore holding companies. Sharif stands by his innocence and has agreed to step down if a Supreme Court commission finds any wrongdoing. The government, in turn, questions the motives of those protesting Sharif: “Imran is just really desperate for any kind of shortcut to becoming prime minister and with these leaks he thinks he’s hit the jackpot,” critiqued a Pakistani minister.
  • Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa boasted in a tweet, “They spent almost a year looking for something against the Ecuadorian government and found nothing”—only to shortly thereafter learn that the Papers do in fact reference a 2012 investigation that involved both Correa and his brother, Fabricio. A presidential adviser has since refuted the claim: “The president is a very honest person. This is all absolutely false. And he’s not involved in any offshore company directly or indirectly.”
  • In Iceland, Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson did not resign, but did step aside indefinitely in response to revelations of a private offshore company set up by he and his wife. More recently, Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson has been found to have an offshore account, despite his claims otherwise.
  • In Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his family have been implicated by the Panama Papers, but the general prosecutor has decided not to pursue an investigation, claiming a lack of “reliable information.” 
  • Approximately 500 well-known Indians have been cited in the Panama Papers. Some, like actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, question the legitimacy of the report, but are willing to comply with the ensuing investigation. For others, judgement day has already arrived: India issued a warrant for the arrest of ex-billionaire and corrupt businessman Vijay Mallya and then revoked his passport as well.
  • In Hong Kong, the Panama Papers have only revealed how precarious the state of free speech is. Ming Pao chief editor Keung Kwok-yuen was fired following his decision to feature Panama Paper information on the newspaper’s front page. The paper maintains the decision was merely in the interest of saving costs.
  • Jose Manuel Soria, Spain’s minister of industry, energy and tourism, resigned once information was revealed linking him to a Jersey-based offshore company. He has not been officially charged with a crime.

SumRando applauds the transparency and dialogue brought by the Panama Papers, especially for those countries whose concerns too often remain unsaid and unchecked.

Want the latest freedom of speech and cybersecurity news from around the world? Read on!

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