Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the heart of the unprecedented leak of offshore banking records, turns out to have more offices in China than any other country.
That treasure trove of 11.5 million formerly-secret files from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, uncovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and leaked online earlier this week, has tied business and political elites from all over the world to establishing offshore companies.
According to its website, Mossack Fonseca operates branches in eight Chinese cities. For those with some money to hide, they include Dalian, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Jinan, Ningbo, Qingdao, Shanghai and Shenzhen. The news came as a shock to us. We didn’t think people in Jinan had enough money to need hiding.
The British-based Guardian newspaper said an internal Mossack Fonseca survey found the biggest proportion of its offshore company owners came from mainland China, followed by Hong Kong.
Despite Xi Jinping launching a much-publicized anti-corruption drive, the large number of offshore company owners, which include the brother-in-law of Xi Jinping and eight current or former members of the Politburo, would give its critics further ammunition when accusing the campaign to be nothing more than a tool for purging political opponents.
But for the Chinese populace at large, none of this is likely to cross their radar. The BBC reported that “Panama Papers” quickly became one of the most censored terms on Weibo after the news broke. Internet regulators even went so far as to block out the entire country of Panama, just to be on the safe side:
Sina Weibo is censoring search results for "Panama" pic.twitter.com/KuXHqBGP5N
— William Farris (@wafarris) April 4, 2016
The names of those mentioned in the reports sourced from the leaks have also been sporadically censored throughout the Chinese internet. At the same time, directives have been sent to state media organs warning them not to publish any coverage on the leaks, threatening that if foreign media reports attacking China are reprinted “it will be dealt with severely.”
Party mouthpiece Global Times has however published an article on the Panama Papers, at least on its English language website. It claims that the leak of confidential documents amounts to a Western conspiracy to strike a blow at non-Western political elites and organizations.
I guess (the father of) British Prime Minister David Cameron and Icelandic PM Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson don’t count as Western?