The Panama Papers expose the internal operations of one of the world’s leading firms in incorporation of offshore entities, Panama-headquartered Mossack Fonseca. The 2.6 terabyte trove of data at the core of this investigation contains nearly 40 years of records, and includes information about more than 210,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions.
Data compiled, analyzed and visualized by Rigoberto Carvajal, Mar Cabra, Álvaro Ortiz and Fernando Blat.
The Panama Papers expose the internal operations of one of the world’s leading firms in incorporation of offshore entities, Panama-headquartered Mossack Fonseca. The 2.6 terabytes of data that make up the Panama Papers files were obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ and more than 100 media partners.
The leak contains more than 11.5 million internal files of the company. It includes nearly 40 years of data, from 1977 through the end of 2015. The data contains a few incorporations before 1977, but they are sporadic and represent less than 1% of the companies. Although the data within the leak stretches back to 1977, Mossack Fonseca only came into being under its current name and structure in 1986, when Ramón Fonseca merged his small, one-secretary law firm in Panama with another local firm headed by Jürgen Mossack, a Panamanian of German origin.
The data shows that Mossack Fonseca worked with more than 14,000 banks, law firms, company incorporators and other middlemen to set up companies, foundations and trusts for customers. ICIJ used the country categorization contained in the leaked internal client database to describe how many intermediaries were in each country.
This internal database didn’t have a date for the closing of the companies. In the offshore world entities are hardly closed: they’re either inactivated or they stop paying fees and their status changes to what’s called “struck off” in the offshore lingo. ICIJ considered inactivation and struck off dates as the deactivation date of the companies. In the case of any discrepancy between the two dates, ICIJ used the one that happened first. A company was counted as active from the incorporation date until it was inactivated or struck off.