The passports of at least 200 Americans show up in this week’s massive leak of secret data on secretive offshore shell companies.
Given the high-profile nature of some of the foreign names in the leaks – close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin were seen moving more than $2 billion through shell companies – many of the Americans may seem like small fish.
In four separate cases, the law firm Mossack Fonseca helped register offshore companies for Americans who are now either accused or convicted by federal prosecutors of serious financial crimes, including securities fraud and running a Ponzi scheme.
In some cases, the shell companies created through the Panamanian law firm were part of fraudulent activities. In others, it’s not clear. That’s the purpose of shell companies, after all, to shelter money or assets.