The Panama Papers

  • by Frederik Obermaier, Bastian Obermayer
  • Narrated by Simon Shepherd
  • 12 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


What the Critics Say

"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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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!
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- Phil O.

incredible story

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

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-06-2016
  • Publisher: Audible Studios