Working in virtual secrecy for a year, 100 media outlets all across the world, including the BBC and the UK Guardian, revealed that they had obtained more 11 million leaked documents from global law firm Mossack Fonseca, which tie world leaders and their family members to offshore accounts established to avoid paying taxes or hide their assets.
Russia and China, with the aid of its state-controlled media outlets, reacted to the news by accusing the U.S. government of being behind the “information attack,” and some conspiracy theorists and skeptics believe that since no U.S. officials appear to be mentioned, that the leak could have come from a U.S. government agency like the CIA or IRS.
However, the editor of the German newspaper that the unknown leaker contacted implied that upcoming stories will expose alleged wrongdoing by U.S.-based individuals or firms.
The coordinated effort was led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). According to its website, OCCRP is a “not-for-profit, joint program of a number of regional non-profit investigative centers and for profit independent media stretching from Eastern Europe to Central Asia,” and is “supported by grants from the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Open Society Foundations.”
“Russia said Monday that President Vladimir Putin was the main target of an unprecedented media leak into the financial activity of wealthy individuals who hold accounts offshore,” USA Today reports. “Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told the Russian news agency Interfax that it was ‘obvious’ the aim of the anonymous release of more than 11 million documents belonging to a law firm in Panama — Mossack Fonseca — was to undermine the president ahead of parliamentary elections expected in September.”
About a week before the news officially broke on Sunday, Russia appeared to bash it preemptively.
“Presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov has said that Western mass media intends to launch a new slander attack on Vladimir Putin and expressed regret that reporters’ professionalism is often ‘sacrificed to political demands,'” the state-owned — but left-leaning — media outlet Russia Today reported on March 26. “According to Peskov, the fresh set of false reports made with intent to harm the president’s reputation will be released in the nearest future.”
The article added, “He went on to blame ‘certain public groups, NGOs, Western special services and certain mass media outlets’ for attempts to destabilize the situation in Russia ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections by attempting to discredit senior officials and above all, Putin.”
Robert Bridge, a U.S.-born political commentator for Russia Today writes that it’s no “coincidence” it was “served hot to an unsuspecting public between April Fool’s Day and NATO’s 65th birthday,” and believes that Putin is “being used as convenient smokescreen to conceal the real suspects in this story.”
Along with Russia, China also appears to be suggesting that the U.S. government was behind the leak. “The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, suggested in an editorial on Tuesday that Western media backed by Washington used such leaks to attack political targets in non-Western countries while minimizing coverage of Western leaders,” Reuters reports.
“In the Internet era, disinformation poses no major risks to Western influential elites or the West,” The Global Times claimed. “It will become a new means for the ideology-allied Western nations to strike a blow to non-Western political elites and key organizations.”
China is also blocking international news reports of the Panama Papers from the Internet.