At least 21 Thai nationals are believed to have been named in the so-called Panama Papers leak, according to Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO). The leak, first reported over the weekend, comprises some 11 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, provided by an anonymous source to the German newspaper Sueeddeutsche Zeitung. Mossack Fonseca is reported to have said it was the victim of an overseas-based computer hack. A team of over 400 reporters, from 107 media organisations in 76 countries, has worked secretly for over a year with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to analyse the papers.
The extensive papers – which date back as far as 1977 – shed light on wealthy, powerful and well-known individuals and corporations around the world that have used the services of Mossack Fonseca to pen offshore accounts and form shell companies. There is nothing necessarily illegal about using tax havens like Panama, or the services of companies like Mossack Monseca – which insists that it has operated legally for four decades.
But many of those named in the documents are alleged to have used the techniques to conceal their ownership of vast amounts of wealth and its origin, as well as to avoid paying tax in their home country or other locations. Some institutions on the list are also alleged to have been involved in trading with firms subject to international sanctions.
According to the Bangkok Post, AMLO’s acting secretary-general Pol Col Seehanat Prayoonrat, who claimed he was relying on information obtained from the press, said that the agency is seeking cooperation from equivalent overseas organisations in order to investigate the activities of 21 Thais apparently named in the papers.
Justice Minister Gen Phaiboon Koomchaya, stressing that being named in the papers does not mean individuals or businesses have broken the law, said that companies’ tax records will be cross-referenced in order to identify any misconduct. Thai PBS says the 21 Thais are linked to 963 companies.
Described by ICIJ director Gerard Ryle as ‘probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken’, the leak has named individuals and corporations linked to prominent global figures including current and former presidents and prime ministers of numerous countries. The offices of European football governing body UEFA have reportedly been searched by Swiss police in connection with a contract named in the papers that was allegedly signed by former UEFA general secretary and current FIFA president Gianni Infantino. And Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, who has denied any wrongdoing, has already been forced to stand down in the wake of the revelations.
CORRECTION - 10 April 2016: A reference to the ICIJ's searchable online database has been removed from the article above, since this refers to a previous Offshore Leaks database from 2010 rather than the current Panama Papers leak, and was reported in error.