With the leak of 11.5 million documents from offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, a number of high profile individuals have been linked to vast sums of money housed in offshore accounts.
The documents show the manners and methods to which rich and influential people can exploit offshore tax regimes, in what NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden deemed 'the biggest leak in the history of data journalism'. Notably, a network of deals and loans worth roughly two billion dollars can allegedly be traced to Russian president Vladimir Putin through a friend of his, Sergei Roldugin.
To learn more, Julia Hartley-Brewer spoke to former Kremlin advisor Alexander Nekrasov to shed some light on the papers for our listeners.
On distinguishing between what is legal and illegal: "I think the main issue about offshore accounts is not simply people hiding from tax or trying to minimise their tax exposure. The issue is if you have access to taxpayers' money which you misuse and then move to an offshore account, then that is an issue and that is a criminal offence. But if you are a private businessman and you are making your money with nothing to do with taxpayers, you can technically by law minimise your tax exposure and it's not illegal. The important thing to understand in this scandal is that we have to very carefully look at the details of each person being mentioned."
On the allegations made against world leaders: "Allegations are allegations. What's important is fact. At this point, this is a very political development. You have to know the system to understand that all politicians are linked to big interest and businessmen."
On Vladimir Putin being linked to offshore money: "Putin's name is never mentioned in the documents. The accusations are made on the basis that some people whom he knows have offshore accounts, so that doesn't really add too much, to be honest. Putin has been dragged into this scandal on the basis of his friends having offshore accounts. Most of the people mentioned there are big businessmen."
His warning to the listeners: "There would be a lot of hot air and rumours flying around, but from a professional point of view, the question is this: Who of these people has access to taxpayers' money? Who of these people has the right to carve up budgets? And if these people have connection to offshore accounts, they should arrested at once because this is corruption. When it comes to businessmen, celebrities, famous people who earn money and want to minimise their tax exposure, it's a completely different ballgame."