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'John Doe' Offers To Turn Over Original Panama Papers Documents To Prosecutors

The entrance to the Hong Kong office of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which is involved in the creation of offshore shelters used to hide income.
Vincent Yu
The entrance to the Hong Kong office of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which is involved in the creation of offshore shelters used to hide income.

The anonymous source behind the Panama Papers document dump has offered to help law enforcement officials pursue wrongdoers, in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

"Legitimate whistle-blowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution," the source said, in a statement released late Thursday. It was verified by Süddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper that helped bring the documents to worldwide attention.

In early April, media organizations around the world reported that millions of documents were hacked from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama law firm that helps set up offshore shelters for wealthy clients, many of which are used for tax avoidance and hiding assets.

The documents revealed that the firm and its clients had done work for actors, sports stars and government officials all over the world.

The source behind the leak, who goes by the name "John Doe," noted that so far, only copies of the incriminating documents had been leaked, and said investigators would need the originals to prosecute those involved.

"In the end, thousands of prosecutions could stem from the Panama Papers, if only law enforcement could access and evaluate the actual documents," Doe said.

Doe said he or she was willing to produce the originals, in exchange for immunity, noting that previous whistleblowers had paid a price for their actions:

"I have watched as one after another, whistle-blowers and activists in the United States and Europe have had their lives destroyed by the circumstances they find themselves in after shining a light on obvious wrongdoing. Edward Snowden is stranded in Moscow, exiled by the Obama Administration's decision to prosecute him under the Espionage Act. For his revelations about the NSA, he deserves a hero's welcome and a substantial prize, not banishment. Bradley Birkenfeld was awarded millions for his information concerning Swiss bank UBS--and was still given a prison sentence by the Justice Department."

The Justice Department declined to comment on Doe's statement.

The statement contained sharp criticism of governments around the world, saying they had "utterly failed to address the metastasizing tax havens spotting Earth's surface."

"Banks, financial regulators and tax authorities have failed. Decisions have been made that have spared the wealthy while focusing instead on reining in middle- and low-income citizens," it said.

It also excoriated major media organizations for failing to do stories on the documents when they were offered.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.