Panama Papers: Are Filipino politicians tagged in the biggest leak in history?
( - April 5, 2016 - 1:31am

MANILA, Philippines — It’s so far the biggest leak in history in terms of data volume, even dwarfing the widely known Wikileaks by more than 1,500 times.

Since the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed the existence of the Panama Papers on Sunday, various publications have been after the story which links 140 politicians around the world to secret offshore companies.

The ICIJ has clarified that having an offshore company is not illegal. But it can be used to cheat on tax by hiding the money.

And in the particular case of the Panama Papers, investigation by the ICIJ found that it was used to “facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion, financial fraud and drug trafficking.”

With this massive find, ICIJ’s Director Gerard Ryle told Wired that he advise reporters to “go crazy” but tell “what’s in the public interest for your country.”

In the Philippines, news reports have been circulating associating political figures like Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and Sen. JV Ejercito to the Panama Papers. Although their names, along with 570 other Filipinos, have been associated to offshore companies, it was for the Offshore Leaks in 2013 and not the recently released Panama Papers.

What’s the difference?

The Offshore Leaks differs from the Panama Papers by a massive number.

Picture this. The Panama Papers deals with a goliath 2.6 terabytes of data. This translates to almost 40 years worth of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, from 1977 until the end of 2015.

The law firm helped foreign clients hide their assets through shell companies in 21 tax havens.

A shell company exists only on paper. It has no office or employees.

In the Offshore Leaks, Marcos and Ejercito were identified as officers and master clients of offshore entities. A master client serves as a “go-between who helps a client set up an offshore entity,” the ICIJ explained. This helps keep the identity of the real owner under wraps.

The Offshore Leaks which covers nearly 30 years of data was just 260 gigabytes, while the Wikileaks in 2010 was at 1.7 gigabytes.

Are Filipinos included in the Panama Leaks?

We don’t know yet. So far a listing of power players in the Panama Papers did not include the Philippines. But the ICIJ said that what it posted on its site is not yet the full list of companies and people.

In his interview on Wired, Ryle said that unlike Wikileaks, ICIJ won’t unleash the full set of documents on the web. But it said it will leak information on all the companies and players involved in early May. We’re talking about information from more than 11.5 million internal files of Mossack Fonseca. And who knows what we can discover.


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