Panama Papers

DEFINITION of 'Panama Papers'

The Panama Papers refer to the 11.5 million leaked encrypted confidential documents that were the property of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. The documents were released on April 3, 2016 by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), dubbing them the “Panama Papers.” The document exposed the network of some 214,000 tax havens involving people and entities from 200 different nations. A yearlong team effort by SZ and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) went into deciphering the encrypted files before the revelations were made public. 

BREAKING DOWN 'Panama Papers'

In 2015, Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) was contacted by an anonymous source calling him or herself "John Doe," who offered to leake the documents. Doe did not demand any financial compensation in return, according to the SZ. The total volume of data comes to about 2.76 terabytes, making it the biggest data leak in history. The data pertains to the period spanning from the 1970s to the spring of 2016.

Initially, only select names of politicians, public officials, businessmen and other involved were revealed. One of the immediate consequences of the revelations was the April 4, 2016 resignation of Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. On May 9, all of the 214,000 offshore entities named in the Panama Papers become searchable via a database on the web site of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).