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Publisher's Summary

Late one evening investigative journalist Bastian Obermayer receives an anonymous message offering him access to secret data. Through encrypted channels he then receives documents showing a mysterious bank transfer for $500 million in gold. This is just the beginning.

Obermayer and fellow Süddeutsche Zeitung journalist Frederik Obermaier find themselves immersed in a secret world where complex networks of shell companies help to hide people who don't want to be found. Faced with the largest data leak in history, they activate an international network of journalists to follow every possible line of enquiry.

Operating for over a year in the strictest secrecy, they uncover a global elite living by a different set of rules: prime ministers, dictators, oligarchs, princelings, sports officials, big banks, arms smugglers, mafiosi, diamond miners, art dealers and celebrities. The real-life thriller behind the story of the century, The Panama Papers is an intense, pause-resisting account that blows their secret world wide open.

©2016 Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

Critic Reviews

"The biggest leak in the history of data journalism." (Edward Snowden)
"This is the inside story of how governments, corporations and organised crime groups have used the secret world of offshore jurisdictions to engage in systematic cheating and thieving. It's an almost perfect tale for the 21st century - the failure of democracy, the triumph of commercial power and greed, greed, greed." (Nick Davies, special correspondent, Guardian)

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Don't know about you but I returned it...

I'm not saying the story itself is not important just maybe the writers behind the story do not necessarily make a good storyteller ... Rather read the news reports on this

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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incredible story

love the story and the connecting pieces of puzzle chapter after chapter. this book is must read

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Eye opening

This book is entertaining as it is educational. It is a fantastic introduction into the inner workings of off-shore companies by the people who organized the distribution of the panama papers.

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Perfect in every way

Not to be missed. Very well written and read. the subject matter is told in way that you do it have to have any prior knowledge about it to understand and find it fascinating.

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  • Philo
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 10-15-16

World's offshore finance mapped; big names named

Folks worldwide have endless reasons to make assets disappear from the jurisdiction and reach of the place they reside. Many have varied reasons to pipe those assets to shadowy destinations. In some (surely not all) of those shadows lurk ghastly arms transfers, bigtime drugs, criminal networks, terror. Or, some well-off clients may have more pedestrian aims such as hiding assets from divorce, the tax-man, or other rightful owners (or, to be charitable, maybe some wrongful claimants). Imagine that huge lootings are going on of various resources in Africa. Yes, one can imagine mixed in here and there, a benign purpose such as not being looted of legitimate hard-earned wealth, from exposure in some places to some nasty political risk -- local chiefs always lurk to bleed the successful. Plenty of countries and characters have some mishmash of these things. There is a huge flow of wealth around the world "off the books." In the trillions, these authors maintain, citing other sources.
How edifying to these folks, to know there is a full-service law firm or two in sunny Panama to grease and facilitate this process. I had thought George H. W. Bush cleaned things up down there, in the Noriega days. NOT. We come to find there are whole countries whose business model is to facilitate this stuff. Some mighty big and rich. Many in the heart (or fringes) of Europe. Plenty just south of Florida. There are islands that must be almost sinking with all the filthy lucre stashed there. There are inshore "islands": Nevada and Montana have, or had, outposts of this firm.
As for big names, and keeping in mind I am not equating these to each other, or claiming the worst for any of them (see the text for plenty of juicy details), here is just a taste: family and close friends of Putin, Syria's Assad, Chinese mainland top inner circles, recent PM Cameron of the UK (though he is seemingly more benign than others), a recent Icelandic PM (deposed by of this very scandal), various tinpot dictators, big arms and diamond merchants, recipients of Nazi lootings, and beneficiaries of more recent, less famous, but comparable lootings all over the place. I do not intend to tar these different names/people with the same brush. Each case its its own. But meanwhile, localities starve for revenues partly because of the sweetheart deals of their bosses through this overall system. The firm prates about compliance, diligence and so on, but its leaked files tend to differ about that. Across the wider canvas, money, commodities and so on flow in and out of our "legitimate" banking systems seemingly almost effortlessly. At its worst, this book gets very preachy about this stuff (but fortunately ladles it on sparingly -- I think this material speaks eloquently for itself). I guess all that signals sincerity by the authors. Newsflash: this is not Kumbaya World.
Sadly, nobody (at this house) has time to do a real statistical run on the multiple terabytes, to truly deeply assess the story of this law firm. Flashy stuff was searched for, and it was found.
Another feature for easy hire here is a straw person who signs papers for the offshore entity -- these are hired by this law firm apparently to sign blank papers all day, the use and words to be filled in later. It is easy, we see in this "cookbook," to make a true owner of assets -- simply -- disappear. Things like international bribery become mouse-click stuff.
Here the prose is crisp, the trail of bread crumbs well mapped. The authors took time to be readable and move the reader along, dropping little hints to keep interest piqued. I found it easy to listen to, and plenty engaging. The back-story is great -- a fleeing Waffen SS man from Germany who worked briefly for the CIA, slipped into Panama, and then his son forms this law firm? Great pulpy novel stuff!
Now a problem: the biggest dilemmas of our day are embodied in this book. My college students seem mostly utterly clueless as to what they and their parents gave away: any pretense of privacy. The world as a glass house with info leaks everywhere is no unalloyed good. It is partly terrifying. I note that wikileaks dumped more from Hillary Clinton's past doings than was ever dreamed of in the Watergate scandal (circa 1973) that gripped world news globally for months, even years, and toppled a US presidency with historic fallout. (Nixon's term was prescient in showing a world of tactical leaks.) Now the general silence or indifference or ignorance around this kind of every-bit-as-serious-type-of-event is deafening. It's another feature of this offshore world of sudden transparencies and newly anonymous actors that some pretty nasty people are using this sort of thing strategically and tactically. Bedfellows are invisible in the offshore and virtual world. The world of spy paranoia has engulfed us. Here, the confidentiality of a law firm and its clients was violated, and doubtless many laws. On one hand, this should be quite worrying. Which brings up the nagging question here: what actor, state-based or otherwise, could infiltrate this law firm and, for supposedly no reward (while risking his/her/its life, it appears), dump multiple terabytes of its documents into the hands of two (self-proclaiming) well-meaning idealistic reporters? I'm a suspicious type, and this has spook written all over it. Look for the holes in the doughnut: who is signally NOT being exposed here? And there is the dilemma: being invited to join (and fund) this voyeurism, this evolving process. And now, it is said, United States' Department of Justice is scrutinizing this stuff. And where it stops nobody knows. It is for a good purpose, one can only (nervously) hope (or rationalize). This is the tragic story of our age, as the last ponds of privacy are drained. At a certain point of evaporation a state-change happens and the whole environment shifts to a new equilibrium, perhaps not benign. The world is already halfway colorful dirty tabloid. But I tend to see no eternal white or black hats, only endless shades of gray, and ever-shifting map of vulnerabilities, with creeps of all stripes to exploit them. Ask not for whom the vulnerabilities toll. They toll for you and me, and for what we used to call the reliable frameworks and sanctities of our lives. Strap in, its a wild toboggan ride!

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

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I shake my head in disgust.

Fascinating how far the Uber wealthy will go to screw the rest of us. Terrible people.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Kirstine
  • 07-15-17

Riveting story of financial misdeeds

I was engrossed by this pacy and fascinating account of how two German journalists organised a world-wide analysis of masses of detailed financial information leaked to them by an anonymous informant, Documents that revealed the extraordinary lengths to which the rich and powerful go to to avoid tax or cover-up fraud. The amount of data is mind-boggling: the equivalent of literary millions of pages.

The information was from the internal documents of the Panama City law firm, Mossack Fonseca, with links to off-shore financial havens world-wide. The firm created thousands of shell companies that were (and are) created to hide the real owners of the stored money and other assets. A facility exploited by organized crime. I was not surprised to learn that the despots of the world engage in this kind of activity to cover up filching the assets of their countries, but was dismayed by how common the practice is among politicians and leaders of so many organisations.

Apart from generating a sense of outrage at the sheer greed of those with power and money and the shady lawyers who carry out the dirty work, I was impressed by the world-wide network of investigative journalists organised to analyse the data relevant to their respective countries. All the more extraordinary was that not one of them leaked the fact that they were uncovering explicit evidence of tax evasion and fraud by well-known people and in some cases putting themselves at considerable risk.

Even though the Panama Papers have lifted the lid on many involved in tax evasion and fraud, and some action is being taken, the problem will not go away as long as there is no international clamping down on shell companies. But I fear this will never happen as so many politicians and their cronies have had, and probably still use, these companies to avoid or reduce their tax liabilities.

The narrator is first rate and brings a passion to the text.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • phil chadwick
  • 12-18-16

A must-read. Simple as that

Absolutely loved this. Detailed insight into the making of the definitive piece of investigative journalism of the current era.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. D. Deegan
  • 12-23-17

Awesome

Loved it, gripping and interesting. Would recommend it to anyone intrigued by this worldly topic.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Colin Howard
  • 10-23-17

Fascinating true story

This is an amazing story, it reads like a detective novel but is all true. Should be required reading.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig
  • 08-21-17

Mind blowing

The scale of these leaks is astounding and this book is an essential read for anyone interested in how the global elite avoid fair contributions to society.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • AGNIESZKA
  • 04-12-18

Great book full of sad stories.

Nonetheless true eye opener. For all that can stomach the state of world affairs in XXI centaury-must read.

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  • c
  • 03-13-18

Leaves me feeling angry and ashamed.

Other reviewers have written many words of well deserved praise for everyone involved in the brave world-wide release of the Panama Papers, not least 'John Doe' and the two journalists/ authors. I can't improve on these. I think this book should now be compulsory reading within schools and universities, as a reminder of how these despicable financial practices line the bottomless pockets of the 1% uber-rich. This being at the cost of the rest of us-the 99%, many of whom live in abject poverty because of the theft of revenue from their government's coffers. Maybe this level of constant exposure would bring the subject back to the attention of the public where it belongs, and should remain, until off-shore tax havens are abolished forever.

Why has it all now disappeared from public attention (i.e.Newspapers and TV) in the UK when many of the worst offenders operate from British territories? As the novel explains, this is because many of the uber-rich have now bought into our newspapers and media (and those in other countries too) to ensure that we all eventually forget to keep an eye on exactly what respective governments are doing to end what is, in any language, tax evasion!

No wonder I'm angry and ashamed as a result of listening to the Panama Papers, one of the best buys from Audible...ever!

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  • Dr Campbell
  • 11-11-17

An interesting account

An interesting account. Though the author does miss out mentioning that important organisations like wiki leaks can only survive because of the financial shelter of such jurisdictions given the powerful enemies they make.....these are tools which can be used for good or ill.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-13-18

absolute necessity to listen to

amazing. if you didn't already understand oligarchy, or question politics; and especially, especially if you are interested in this broad suggestion, this will amaze , verify and keep you riveted to the end.

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  • Padraig Butler
  • 09-19-17

Excellent story and narration

Really enjoyed the story and the narration. One of the best audiobooks that I have listened to.

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  • Darren
  • 09-10-17

How the criminal rich screw us all.

This has to be one of the most important books of the century. Explains how the top 1% screw the world over and how our governments either are participates or just turn a blind eye.

No conspiracy theories, all based on the greatest data leek in history.