The Panama Papers

image taken from the internet and used for representational purposes only, not for violating copyright.

Explosive first person account of the global trailblazing investigation into illegal and shady offshore banking accounts, that came to be known as Panama Papers. The data leak came from a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca and it was sent to a German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and they in turn made it available to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists who then cobbled together a global consortium of more than 300 journalists from all over the world in a unique global collaboration. From India, the data came to the Indian Express which, thankfully, accepted the data and worked on it with a three person team comprising of Ritu Sarin, Jay Mazoomdar & P Vaidyanathan Iyer who have written this book. The Indian Express editors ring fenced the three into a hush hush secret conclave kinda room and ensured that no outside interference bothered them. Indian Express has been known for that kind of gutsy journalism from the Ramnath Goenka times. The Panama Papers itself threw up 11.5 million financial and legal records into 2600 gb of data which was then crunched further and leads investigated further with comments and replies from the people who were named in the list. The scourge of black money or illicit wealth has been with us since many years and small underdeveloped nations suffer the most. Lot of big names like Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Nira Radia, and not so known names came on the list. Many explained the details and some could not give any answer. Post Panama Papers, government has tightened regulations manifold like the KYC norms, requiring directors of companies to do their KYC annually with documents etc. KYC of the registered office of the companies, with photographs, satellite links, geo tagging, latitude, longitude markings etc. Then the government got cracking on the SBO (significant beneficial ownership) regulations and the FATCA compliance which was actually not necessary because that pertained to US citizens, but mutual funds in their over zealousness started asking for FATCA declarations from Indians as well. Many of the people in the list were able to explain their investments in the offshore banking units by reference to the LRS (liberalised remittance scheme) by which RBI has allowed each individual to send upto US$250,000 abroad every year to purchase assets, investments abroad by giving appropriate declarations. Govt. also in its over zealousness and wrong advise did the ill thought of and ill timed demonetization, which was a disaster as we all know of by now. They also supposedly bought about electoral funding reforms by introducing the electoral bonds but it has been mired in controversy due to its opaqueness and lack of transparency. At the global level, FATF (financial action task force) is an important element in curbing money laundering and terrorism financing. Surprising that except for one small time politician, no other big name politician figured in the list, which shows how smart and savvy they are in hiding their wealth abroad. All in all, a nice pulsating book to read, the narrative is very good, these three have done a magnificent job in working on the data leak, comprising of unending hours of work, following up the leads, bringing out the stories and in bringing out the book. Goodreads 5/5

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