ERROR: Information Overload

Jack Rintoul, Writer

The Panama Papers: history’s largest amount of data ever leaked, linking powerful business owners and government officials to accounts of tax fraud after keeping their money in countries with little or no taxes for years. These 11.5 million documents, shared by an unknown whistleblower, made headlines. But with 2.6 terabytes of information, news sources are trying to figure out what the information means.

According to The Guradian, an anonymous source gave the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, the files about a year ago and they have been passed around in attempt to serve justice to those taking part in the illegal activity.

“I think it is basically a big leak of information where they have found stuff on celebrities and world officials that have been hiding their money in these offshore investment companies,” Thomas Birmingham, freshman, said.

After the leak of 11.5 million documents, multiple leaders around the world were caught using the Panama based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, to incorporate companies holding their money in countries that do not require owners to pay many taxes according to The New York Times. Mossack Fonseca uses territories such as the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas, where taxes are low or nonexistent, where it is legal to hide financial assets from their home country’s tax authorities. According to The Guardian, world leaders who were caught include the now former Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, and Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.

“It’s information regarding world leaders who put money in offshore accounts, specifically in Panama, to avoid paying taxes and or because they did something illegal like taking a bribe,” Courtney Krus, social studies teacher, said. “World leaders set up these accounts in Panama… so they can then avoid paying taxes, but still use the money.”

Although the leak of the Panama Papers to the public was back in April 3, there has not been many repercussions for the men and women who were found using Mossack Fonseca according to BBC News. There were few Americans, none notable, caught using Mossack Fonseca. According to an interview by the Associated Press, co-founder Ramon Fonseca said they preferred not to have American clients. However, this does not mean there were no American companies found in the documents. Many of the documents still have not even been read or understood yet.

“It would go back to their country of origin’s financial regulations,” Nicole Kaufmann, social studies teacher, said. “If a business owner or leader, in their home country, violated their own laws then they should be prosecuted by their home country for the crime they committed in avoiding these taxes.”