The person who claims to have disclosed the Panama Papers, a trove of financial data that has implicated politicians and business leaders around the world in large-scale tax evasion, issued a statement Friday explaining the motives behind the massive leak.
The leaker said the documents reveal how global income inequality is fed by “massive, pervasive corruption,” which the leaker blamed primarily on failings by the legal profession, while condemning the roles played by banks, financial regulators, tax authorities, the courts and the media.
The person did not reveal his or her name or any other identifying information, or explain how the papers were obtained.
Echoing the release of the papers themselves, the whistleblower gave the statement to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which shared it with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which is working with Kyodo News and other media partners.
The internal files taken from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co., which specializes in creating shell companies, contain information on more than 200,000 offshore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories.
“I decided to expose Mossack Fonseca because I thought its founders, employees and clients should have to answer for their roles in these crimes, only some of which have come to light thus far,” the leaker said in the statement.
“Thousands of prosecutions could stem from the Panama Papers, if only law enforcement could access and evaluate the actual documents,” the person said, adding that inadequate legal protections and a history of harsh punishment for whistleblowers discouraged him or her from releasing the documents in full.
The leaker raised the example of Edward Snowden, who sought asylum in Russia after being charged under U.S. espionage law for exposing National Security Agency surveillance practices.
The ICIJ has signaled it will refrain from supplying the full Panama Papers to law enforcement agencies, a move the whistleblower hailed.
The leaker condemned global media for largely ignoring the Panama Papers until the story picked up speed, saying several major media outlets had access to some of the documents at an earlier juncture but chose not to report on them.
The person also called for fundamental reforms in the way lawyers are regulated and for radically increasing the transparency of corporate data, particularly in Britain’s offshore territories, which he or she described as “unquestionably the cornerstone of institutional corruption worldwide.”
The leaker said developments in information technology mean governments are becoming progressively less able to suppress information to conceal tax inequalities and similar issues from citizens.
“The next revolution will be digitized. Or perhaps it has already begun,” the leaker said.