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Reports: Leaked docs link raft of politicians, Putin's connections, banks to illicit activities

Approximately11 million leaked documents have revealed how Panama-based law firm MossackFonseca allegedly helped wealthy and powerful figures from around the world hidetheir financial assets through offshore tax regimes, laundered money and evadedsanctions, The (U.K.) Guardian and other news outletsreported April 3.

Thedocuments, which were obtained by German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium ofInvestigative Journalists, show links to 72 current or former government heads,including Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, former EgyptianPresident Hosni Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Theleaked documents also highlight a suspected money-laundering operation run byBANK ROSSIYA ofRussia and involving individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Thedocuments allegedly showed that the bank and its chairman, Yuri Kovalchuk,transferred at least $1 billion in funds to Sandalwood Continental, an offshoreentity. The amount allegedly came from unsecured loans from and other Russianstate-owned banks.

Iceland'sprime minister allegedly held undeclared interests in the country's bailed-outlenders through offshore company Wintris, which he and his wife Anna Pálsdóttiracquired in 2007 and managed without limit through a general power of attorney,according to the so-called Panama Papers. The offshore firm held significantinvestments in bonds of three Icelandic lenders that collapsed during thecountry's financial crisis, The Guardian,BBC News and other news outlets reported.

Gunnlaugsson,who was involved in talks regarding the failed banks, resisted pressure tofully repay foreign investors, according to BBC News. Full repayment to theinvestors could have negatively affected the value of bonds held by the primeminister's offshore firm. Gunnlaugsson is facing calls to step down as primeminister following the leak.

MossackFonseca defended its conduct following the leak, saying it has always compliedwith international protocols to assure that the companies it incorporates arenot being used for tax evasion, money laundering, terrorism finance and otherillegal purposes.

Thelaw firm also said: "We can confirm the parties in many of thecircumstances [the Panama Papers] cite are not and have never been clients ofMossack Fonseca."