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The Panama Papers Scandal Will Require Involvement of Multilingual Legal Translators, Legal Interpreters, and Lawyers for Years to Come
There is a growing demand for professional legal translation solutions, multilingual legal document translation services and on site legal interpreter services for anti-money laundering (AML) and compliance. The so-called “Panama Papers” scandal that has dominated the headlines in recent weeks is unlikely to disappear anytime soon now that a searchable database is expected to be made available to the public.
The controversy known as the “Panama Papers” refers to the purported release of approximately 11.5 million confidential documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Foseca. The leaked documents show how wealthy individuals, celebrities, politicians, and others have been able to hide assets and evade taxes through the use of offshore accounts and engage in other potentially criminal activity. The Panama Papers, allegedly leaked by a source known as “John Doe,” is the largest data leak in history involving data from 1977 through 2015 and encompassing more than 200,000 offshore entities or “shell” companies. The 11.5 million documents were initially obtained by a German newspaper and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The Panama Papers links at least 12 current or former heads of state and more than 60 of their relatives and associates and other politicians. One of the more scandalous revelations involves an alleged money-laundering ring tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close associates. The Guardian reported that Putin’s associates secretly moved up to $2 billion through offshore accounts. The documents also mention the late father of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the children of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and football’s world governing body, Fifa, to name a few.
While owning an anonymous shell company is not in itself illegal, doing so for purposes of tax avoidance certainly can be. In a letter to the International Consortium of Journalists, The U.S. Attorney for Manhattan announced that the United States Department of Justice had launched a criminal investigation into the possible money laundering and tax avoidance schemes of the wealthy and powerful that have come to light since the documents were leaked.
While the fallout from the scandal continues, lawyers and law enforcement officials will no doubt have their work cut out for them. A large team of lawyers and other legal professionals will be needed to review, sort, archive, investigate, and analyze the massive volume of documents, data, and files at issue when searching for evidence of criminal activity. The documents will also need to be reviewed for privilege and confidentiality concerns which will be further complicated by the intersection of multiple jurisdictions, where documents privileged in one jurisdiction may not be privileged in another. In addition, the tremendous volume of documents are sure to involve documents written in many different foreign languages, thereby requiring the use of experienced legal translators, legal interpreters, and multi-lingual lawyers across the globe.
In addition to criminal prosecutions, the publicly searchable database is sure to be a boon to asset recovery lawyers in civil cases, who will now, in many instances, be able to retrieve the names and addresses of the ultimate beneficiaries of offshore corporations and accounts designed to be anonymous.
Although authorities reportedly raided the Panamanian law firm last month searching for additional evidence of criminal activity, Panama’s public prosecutor has announced that no evidence of wrongdoing has been found against the law firm. The law firm recently announced that it was initiating legal action against the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists over the leak and has stated that it “condemns” the release of “stolen and in some cases false information” that was obtained through the alleged data theft.
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