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Where Are the Key Panama Papers Figures, Seven Years Later?

On the seventh anniversary of the Panama Papers, here’s an update on where some of the most pivotal figures are now, and the legacy the investigation left behind.

Seven years ago today, more than 370 journalists at over a hundred publications around the world simultaneously published the Panama Papers investigation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation was based on a leak of millions of documents from a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The cache of files, first obtained by reporters with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ, included details on the financial secrets of 140 politicians and countless other celebrities and business owners around the world, and revealed how they moved their money through a secretive parallel economy based in offshore tax havens.

On the seventh anniversary of the Panama Papers’ release, here’s an update on where some of the most pivotal figures of the original investigation are now, and the legacy the Panama Papers left behind.

Mossack and Fonseca

The now infamous Panamanian law firm and target of the leak, Mossack Fonseca, closed within two years of the investigation’s release, buckling under lawsuits and global pressure. However, the eponymous co-founders of the company, Ramón Fonseca and Jürgen Mossack, are reportedly still in Panama, according to ICIJ member Sol Lauría Paz.

While Mossack is lying low, Lauría Paz says, Fonseca is active on Twitter, where he posts several times a day, often touting conspiracy theories about the Panama Papers and COVID-19.

The pair were acquitted in a Panamanian money laundering case in 2022, after the judge ruled the prosecution failed to prove the firm handled or tried to hide illicit funds from Brazil. The two lawyers are, however, among dozens of defendants in a second case related to the Panama Papers for “crimes against the public economic order.” A hearing date is set for December 2023.

The two are still being sought by German prosecutors, but are protected from extradition by a Panamanian constitutional protection.

Mossack and Fonseca haven’t just been on the receiving end of lawsuits — in 2019, they launched a legal suit that attempted to block the release of “The Laundromat,” a Netflix film inspired by the Panama Papers, arguing that their depiction by Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas was defamatory.  They didn’t win.

Icelandic PM Gunnlaugsson

One of the most immediate and visceral reactions to the Panama Papers came in Iceland, where then-Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson resigned after documents revealed that he held an offshore company used to shelter money — and hadn’t disclosed it. After two days of public backlash, Gunnlaugsson stepped down and was replaced by Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson.

Gunnlaugsson did mount a political comeback — in 2017, he established the conservative Centre Party, and he continues to serve in Iceland’s parliament as the party’s leader.

In 2018, though, Gunnlaugsson found himself at the heart of a second scandal — the Klaustur Affair — when a leaked recording captured him and other officials talking about female colleagues, including a disabled woman, in a disparaging sexual manner. Gunnlaugsson reportedly apologized for his part in the scandal.

Source: ICIJ