Mossack Fonseca to start legal action over 'Panama Papers' leak

Panama City (AFP) –


The law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal says it is filing suit against the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) for the leak of information it says is false.

The public gained its first access to the Panama Papers records of over 200,000 secret offshore companies when the ICIJ put a searchable database online on Monday.

The database, built on just a portion of the 11.5 million documents leaked from Panama's Mossack Fonseca law firm, reveals more than 360,000 names of individuals and companies behind the anonymous shell firms, the ICIJ said.

The law firm urged the ICIJ to cease and desist prior to the leak online, but it moved ahead with the release.

"The Consortium has forced us to start aggressive legal action to protect ourselves from acts such as these, which, since they are crimes, must be taken to the proper bodies for due process," the company said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The Panama Papers reveal the full extent to which the world's wealthy, alongside criminals, create nominee companies to stash and transfer assets out of sight of the law and tax officials.

Reports already published in April based on the explosive dossier linked some of the world's most powerful leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister David Cameron and others to unreported offshore companies.

The new database can be searched by individual and company name and address, and shows links between those in the records.

But it gives no information -- beyond their name -- on the full identities of those behind the companies, nor of the underlying assets linked to the accounts.