James Henry, investigative economist and lawyer and senior fellow at the Columbia University Center On Sustainable Investment and author of The Blood Bankers: Tales from the Global Underground Economy and the forthcoming The Pirate Bankers (Basic Books, 2005), discusses the revelations contained in the Panama papers leak.
The Panama papers exposed how the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca facilitated the concealment of wealth for politicians and other high-profile individuals, including close associates of both President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Russian president Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson of Iceland and Ian Cameron, the father of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Henry said while the actions described in the documents are not necessarily illegal — a judicial body will have to make that determination — the practices are indefensible and prosecutors are investigating the documents. It also raises questions about why high level politicians and their associates stash money away in secret accounts and tax havens, a practice that became prevalent in the 1970s and 80s because of drug money and big Western banks participating in questionable Third World lending.
While no U.S. companies or notable individuals have been named in the leaks thus far, Henry said as more documents are published in the coming days, American connections would probably be established. Henry said he didn't expect a major U.S. presence in the leaks because similar practices of hiding wealth are employed in several U.S. states.