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World

Panama Papers Expose Hundreds Of Offshore Accounts

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's being called the biggest leak in history - 11.5 million documents from the database of Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The documents show how the firm helps its wealthy clients put their money into hard-to-trace offshore companies sometimes called shell corporations. They're not necessarily illegal but can be used to evade taxes or launder money. The firm's clients included soccer star Lionel Messi, actor Jackie Chan and many more. The files were given to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung which worked with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

CORNISH: A host of politicians were implicated, including the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. He was asked about it in an interview with the Swedish television station SVT.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SIGMUNDUR DAVID GUNNLAUGSSON: Now I'm starting to feel a bit strange about these questions because it's like you are accusing me of something.

CORNISH: Today protestors in Iceland called for his resignation.

SHAPIRO: The papers also named people blacklisted by the U.S. government for involvement with terrorist organizations or authoritarian regimes like North Korea and Syria. Close associates of Vladimir Putin were also named in these documents. The Russian President's spokesman dismissed the claims.

CORNISH: The U.S. Department of Justice has been trying to crack down on this type of behavior for a while. A spokesperson said they were aware of the reports about the documents and are reviewing them. Mossack Fonseca, for its part, denied any wrongdoing. In a statement, the firm said it has always complied with international protocols. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.