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Panama Gate Has 'Intel Op' Written All Over It

Only a large team of financial experts, lawyers and agents could have stolen and processed millions of files on businessmen and politicians  

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

A lot has been written about the political and informational importance of  the “Panama Papers”. But few attempted to analyze it from a practical business point of view. KP asked assistant professor of criminal law at St. Petersburg State University, and the managing partner of law firm CLC Natalya Shatikhina.

- As an expert, please tell me if there is anything threatening for Russia in this investigation from a legal point of view?

<figcaption>A professional job</figcaption>
A professional job

- The information related to Russia is the least eye catching, in my opinion. Offshore itself doesn’t mean anything dangerous. Offshore can be of interest to law enforcement agencies only in two cases: tax evasion or non-disclosure of beneficiaries on actions related to corruption. There were no such cases related to Russia.

Panama is an offshore but not a ‘black offshore’. There are high-risk areas, but you have to provide a colossal amount of information when registering a company in Panama. They check everything thoroughly, so it doesn’t make any sense to transfer criminal money there. Why does Ukraine’s President need to register an offshore company giving his passport information?

Did you notice any unusual details?

Note that the source of information is not disclosed. For me, this is not about good and evil. It’s clear to every person who has ever dealt with such things that it’s impossible to get detailed data on 4 or 5 elements of a chain of associated persons without the assistance of special services. Let’s assume that they could get information from a Panamanian company. But how did they manage to trace operations through trusts and associate the data with certain individuals? There is no public access to this information.  

Besides, it’s hard to imagine 11.5 million reported documents. The official media theory was that a woman delivered this information for revenge in a personal matter. But imagine 11.5 million documents as paper – I don’t know how many trucks you would need. And if they are jpg-files,  how much space does that take up? These are gigantic servers; they cannot be uploaded to flash drives. It’s hard to even imagine downloading such a ‘public library’.  

In the US they solve financial crimes with the help of  "whistleblowers", i.e. literally, informers, who work in organizations suspected of criminal activity. All the recent sensational cases were revealed this way.

And now for some reason no one is asking: “Who delivered all these documents? Why are we not seeing this woman? This proves that the information was likely gained by conventional methods and special state agencies. That’s why we need to see what will happen to this source in future.

Do you believe there are journalists capable of understanding these intricacies?

- It’s absolutely impossible, in my opinion! It’s impossible to trace the ties of 4-5-10 elements and moreover ‘undo’ trusts and check beneficiaries! Besides, it’s too large a number: 11.5 million documents – I can’t imagine how much time you’d need to process them. US special services spend months to process just one large financial organization, even with an insider.

And this is just about only one organization! How many people and hours does it take to study 11.5 million documents? Besides, this requires people with highly specialized skills. They may have done a sampling method. I don’t think they studies them all but did data searches. But that’s strange because regular law firms don’t store files – only scans which can’t be found using search engines. This is a very strange story…

- Who do you think was most harmed by this investigation?

- So far, only Iceland’s Prime Minister has been hit, but the country is in a complicated economic situation and he has an offshore company with bankruptcy debts. Organizations that avoid sanctions using these off-shores may suffer. And I would look at China. If  money was moved out by officials of national and international organizations, they may have problems.  

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