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The celebs and lawmakers hit by ‘Panama papers’

The celebs and lawmakers hit by 'Panama papers'

The sign in front of the building that houses law firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama City, Panama.
EDUARDO GRIMALDO | AFP | Getty Images

A massive anonymous leak of financial documents Sunday has shone a light on the hidden financial dealings of politicians and public officials around the

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the team that is co-ordinating the data, published what are being called the "Panama Papers"—more than 11.5 million encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm.

CNBC highlights some of the celebrities and world leaders that have been named in the documents, either directly or via close association with others.

But remember, a lot of the practices mentioned in the release, including having an offshore company, aren't illegal. Mossack Fonseca, meanwhile, has responded by saying that it has never once in its history been charged with criminal wrongdoing and says several recent media reports have portrayed an inaccurate view of the services it provides. CNBC has not been able to independently verify the allegations.

—By CNBC's Matt Clinch.

First published April 06, 2016.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
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Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, is not named in the documents, but there are allegations of a billion-dollar money laundering ring controlled by a Russian bank that has links to associates of the Russian leader.

The ICIJ told CNBC the papers show Putin's close aides were involved in a $2 billion money trail with offshore firms and banks. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has claimed Putin was the "main target" of the investigation and suggested it was the result of a smear campaign ahead of Russian parliamentary elections, according to the Associated Press.

Lionel Messi

David Ramos | Getty Images

The world's best soccer player, Lionel Messi, is also found within the documents. The Barcelona star is already involved in a tax fraud case in Spain and the ICIJ now claim he, and his father, were owners of a Panama company.

"The Messi family wish to make it clear Lionel Messi has not carried out any of the acts of which he is accused in the stories," the family said in a statement on Monday, according to Reuters.

"The allegations of him having designed a tax evasion project are false and injurious, as are those relating to the creation of a money laundering network."

UK Prime Minister David Cameron

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The British Prime Minister has hit back at allegations surrounding his late father, Ian, a former stockbroker and multimillionaire. The ICIJ says he was a Mossack Fonseca client who used the firm to shield his investment fund from U.K. taxes.

The U.K. leader's spokeswoman declined to comment on Monday, according to Reuters, saying it was a "private matter". However by Tuesday, a spokesman for Cameron said the prime minister, his wife and his children do not benefit from any offshore funds, according to Reuters.

By Thursday the prime minister that he had invested in his father's fund, but sold his holding before the 2010 election. Any profits he made on the fund, he told ITV News, were taxed.

Jackie Chan

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Movie star Jackie Chan has at least six companies managed through the Panamanian law firm, according to the ICIJ, but it says there is no evidence that Chan used his companies for improper purposes.

"Having an offshore company isn't illegal. For some international business transactions, it's a logical choice," the organization's report stated on Sunday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Ukr
Mykola Lazarenko | Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

The Ukrainian leader was seen as the new broom in the war-torn country but the documents show his representatives "scrambled to find a copy of a home utility bill for him to complete the paperwork to create a holding company in the British Virgin Islands," according to the ICIJ.

Poroshenko has since posted a reply on Twitter saying he is not participating in the management of his assets, having delegated the responsibility to consultancy firms.

"I believe I might be the first top official in Ukraine who treats declaring of assets, paying taxes, conflict of interest issues seriously," he added on the social media site.

Argentina President Mauricio Macri

Argentina's President Mauricio Macri waves after being sworn-in as president at Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 10, 2015.
Marcos Brindicci | Reuters

Elected late last year, Macri is seen as a center-right president with a pro-business bent and is hoping to clear the economic gloom left by his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Nonetheless, the ICIJ names Macri in its report, saying he was director and vice-president of a Bahamas company managed by Mossack Fonseca during his tenure as the mayor of Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires.

A spokesman for Macri said the president never personally owned shares in the firm, which was part of his family's business, the ICIJ said in its own report.

Reuters reported Monday, citing a television interview with La Voz, that Macri explained that his father had founded the company through a "legal operation" and there was "nothing strange" about it.

Iceland PM Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, Iceland's prime minister.
Amaldur Halidorsson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson offered to resign Tuesday in the face of the backlash the documents caused. The allegations are that he concealed his secret ownership in an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands. After being elected prime minister, he later sold his stake to his wife for $1, the ICIJ said.

"In recent weeks, the prime minister and his wife have provided detailed answers to questions about the assets of the PM's wife," a statement from the prime minister's offices aid Tuesday. "They have never sought to hide these assets from Icelandic tax authorities ... No Parliamentary rules on disclosure have been broken."

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil
Ueslei Marcelino | Reuters

The political scandal in Brazil is already old news. The ICIJ named Rousseff in the report but simply stated Mossack Fonseca has become a target in a bribery and money laundering investigation in the country which threatens to unseat the president.

Rousseff is currently fighting for her political future. She has continually denied any wrongdoing and last year equated a bid to impeach her to a "coup d'etat," according to Reuters.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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The files also reveal offshore companies linked to the family of China's leader, Xi Jinping, according to the ICIJ.

The Chinese government was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC via a contact email address on its website.

The BBC - another news organization involved in publishing the papers - said Sunday that family members of the Chinese president had been named along with two other members of China's elite standing committee.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev

Laski Diffusion - Wojtek Laski/Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The family of Azerbaijan's leader has been singled out by the ICIJ with a slew of allegations on its website.

These include his family being named in a proposal to "reap benefits from a complex offshore structure to hold interests in a major conglomerate" as well as revelations that his children controlled a majority interest in a controversial gold mine project.

The organization sought comments from all the individuals named in its article but received no responses. The executive administration of the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC via email.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif, leader of political party Pakistan Muslim League-N
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The children of the Pakistani leader owned London real estate through companies created by Mossack Fonseca, the ICIJ reported citing the law firm's records.

Sharif set up a commission on Tuesday to investigate the allegations that the offshore companies were avoiding paying taxes or disguising assets and their origins, Reuters reported.