Shadowy offshore tax havens have long been associated with spy tales and James Bond villains, and now it seems some of the people implicated in the huge Panama documents leak weren't immune to the fantasy either.
Among the 11 million documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that specializes in setting up complex offshore corporate structures, are files showing that the firm established companies named after James Bond movies and villains, according to the consortium of journalists that published the leaks.
The files include companies named Goldfinger, SkyFall, GoldenEye, Moonraker, Spectre and also Blofeld, the arch Bond nemesis fond of remote island lairs, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which investigated the files alongside 100 other media outlets, wrote in an article.
The files also include “correspondence from a man named Austin Powers, apparently his real name and not the movie character, and Jack Bauer, a real person whom a Mossack Fonseca employee entered into the firm’s database as a client after the employee “met him at a pub,” the reporting project wrote.
Jack Bauer was also the character portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland in the hit TV series “24.”
The investigations around the so-called Panama Papers began being published Sunday, and have shone an unusual light on the closed world of offshore corporations. The documents are the biggest whistleblower leak in history and, so far, the alleged revelations have appeared to lay bare the financial dealings of former spy chiefs, criminals and officials, including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin and relatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Using offshore structures is often perfectly legal and has many legitimate purposes, but they can also facilitate opaque transfers of cash and other dubious practices, making them attractive to criminals, as well as to intelligence services. The names of many real spies and their bosses were found in the files, including Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief and a number of alleged CIA agents and gun-runners, according to the investigative group.
Some of those reportedly mentioned in the documents seem aware that some of their prospective clients’ practices would be familiar to the world of Bond.
"I’ll suggest a name like ‘World Insurance Services Limited’ or maybe ‘Universal Exports’ after the company used in the early James Bond stories but I don’t know if we’d get away with that!” an intermediary to Mossack Fonseca is reported to have written on behalf of a client looking to set up an alleged front company.
Universal Exports was a fictional company set up by the British intelligence services in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.