Denmark becomes first to buy leaked Panama Papers

The admission by Denmark's government that it will pay to buy the leaked Mossack Fonseca files can put pressure on other countries to go after tax evaders in a similar way.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca is at center of the controversy involving thousands of offshore accounts used by rich and powerful to evade tax.

Denmark has become the first country to openly acknowledge that it's going to pay to buy the documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca in order to go after citizens who have evaded tax.

Karsten Lauritzen, Denmark's tax minister, said on Wednesday the government can pay up to $1.3 million for the information, which would be used to investigate more than 500 Danes whose names appear in the database.

"We owe it to all Danish taxpayers who faithfully pay their taxes," he said in a statement. "Everything suggest that it is useful information." 

Denmark's Tax Minister Karsten Lauritzen believes going after tax evaders is doing justice with those who pay their taxes.

A source approached Denmark's government over the summer with an offer to trade the documents, leaked from the Panamanian law firm last year.

The identity of the source is not known as it approached the government through encrypted channel over the internet.

Dubbed as the Panama Papers, a cache of 12.7 million documents, was given to a German newspaper by an anonymous source known as "John Doe." 

Later, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) investigated the database for a year and released it in May 2016.

It contains information of bank accounts, emails, paper trail and other incriminating evidence linking some of the most powerful and wealthy people in the world with shady offshore accounts.

While journalists and news organisations from around the world ran stories based on the documents, they have refused to share them with governments.

What remains unclear is if the source, which approached Denmark is the same John Doe.

Denmark's approach to the matter marks a turning point in the controversy, which has rattled governments and forced Prime Minister of Iceland to resign.

Within hours of the news coming out, people took to Twitter, asking if other governments would follow Denmark's lead.

In some countries, like Pakistan, Panama Papers leak have become a major headache for ruling political parties.

The incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is feeling the heat from opposition after names of his children surfaced among those who use a complex network of shell companies to hide financial transactions.

Lauritzen said authorities in Denmark were put in touch with the source by tax authority of another country, something which raises the prospect of other governments also considering the option, according to The Guardian.

Germany, France and, the UK have all paid to buy data of bank customers in past. But this is probably the first time authorities have announced striking a deal with someone to get hands on details of Panama Papers.

The leaked documents show how easy it is for child traffickers, corrupt politicians and regimes, to use law firms like Mossack Fonseca to hide the money trail, evade tax and dodge sanctions.

Mossack Fonseca says the information has been stolen from it and insists that it did not do anything illegal.