El Salvador raids local office of law firm at heart of Panama Papers

Story highlights

  • El Salvadorean authorities raid the local office of Mossack Fonseca
  • They seize documents and computer equipment

(CNN)The fallout from the leak of the so-called Panama Papers continues.

On Friday, El Salvadorean authorities raided the local office of Mossack Fonseca, the global law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers.
    Authorities seized documents and computer equipment in the office in the neighborhood of Colonia Escalon.
    The attorney general said the Mossack Fonseca sign had been removed from the office a day earlier and quoted an employee as saying the firm was moving.
    "As the attorney general I have to investigate such incidents," Attorney General Douglas Melendez said in a statement. "That does not mean that all these companies are illegal or are corrupt."
    And the global repercussions seem likely to continue worldwide.

    Whose head will roll next?

    Only two days after the release of the Panama Papers, the first head rolled. Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned Tuesday.
    Gunnlaugsson had been under pressure to step down since leaked documents hacked from a Panamanian law firm revealed his links to an offshore company, triggering protests.
    Then the question became, who would be next And how far will the damage spread?
    This is the biggest leak in history -- one that dwarfs the amount of data released by WikiLeaks in 2010. Reports say that 12 current or former heads of state are mentioned.
    The more than 11 million documents, which date to four decades, are allegedly connected to Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reports that the law firm helped establish secret shell companies and offshore accounts for global power players.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron

    David Cameron's late father, according to the ICIJ, used the services of the Mossack Fonseca law firm to avoid having his investment fund, Blairmore Holdings Inc., pay any UK taxes.
    For a leader who has called on ordinary people to tighten their belts because government does not have the tax revenue delivery, the revelation -- while not including any allegation of wrongdoing by the Prime Minister -- is unwelcome.
    When asked about the reports, the Prime Minister said, "I own no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore funds, nothing like that. And so that, I think, is a very clear description."

    Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko

    According to the ICIJ, in August 2014, as Russian troops were rolling into Eastern Ukraine, Poroshenko became the sole shareholder of Prime Asset Partners Limited, which Mossack Fonseca set up in the British Virgin Islands.
    A Cyprus law firm representing the newly acquired company described it as a "holding company of Cyprus and Ukrainian companies of the Roshen Group, one of the largest European manufacturers of confectionery products."
    The previous president, Viktor Yanukovych, was reviled for having used government money to build a palace on 350 acres or riverfront land, complete with a shooting range, an equestrian venue, a tennis court and a pier for yachts.
    As Poroshenko potentially hides his holdings -- even if he did so legally -- Ukraine needs tax revenue because the country is perpetually asking other countries for financial help.
    A spokesman for Poroshenko said that creation of the trust and related corporate structures had no relation to political and military events in Ukraine.

    Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

    Three of the Prime Minister's children have been named in the documents as linked to offshore companies that owned properties in London, according to local news organizations.
    Some opposition leaders have called for Sharif to be investigated regarding his family's "wealth stashed abroad." The Pakistani newspaper The News reported that Sharif's sons Hussain and Hasan, and his daughter Maryam, were linked to several offshore companies.
    Hussain has said all the business affairs were legal.
    But legality may not be the point. For the leader of a country where the average income is less than $5,000 a year -- one that badly needs inward investment -- having money stashed abroad probably sends the wrong signal.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin

    The Guardian newspaper in Britain is reporting that "a network of secret offshore deals and vast loans worth $2 billion has laid a trail to Russia's president, Vladimir Putin."
    Although Putin's name is not specifically mentioned, allegedly involved are many members of his inner circle, who have become, the Guardian said, "fabulously wealthy." And the documents suggest that the Putin's family has benefited, the newspaper reported.
    So is Putin in trouble? You must be kidding. He is the exception that proves the rule.
    The Kremlin called the allegations "a series of fibs" aimed at discrediting Putin ahead of elections.
    "Putin, Russia, our country, our stability and the upcoming elections are the main target, specifically to destabilize the situation," said a Kremlin spokesman, claiming many of the journalists involved in combing through the Panama Papers are former officers from the U.S. State Department, the CIA and special services.

    Celebrities, movie stars and sports heroes

    The controversy not only ensnared politicians, but film and sports stars as well. Among those mentioned are soccer star Lionel Messi, according to reports.
    European football club Barcelona has promised to give Messi legal and financial support as the Argentine international star considers whether to sue over the leak.
    Star athletes have frequently declared themselves residents of tax havens, without losing any popularity.
    Many tennis luminaries, for example, have declared themselves residents of Monaco. One cannot help but wonder whether Monaco's lack of an income tax plays a role.