Denmark has become the first country in the world to buy data from the Panama Papers, the biggest leak of confidential documents in history.
The documents were leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which has been described as the world’s fourth-largest provider of offshore services. They revealed the many ways in which the rich and powerful use complicated offshore havens to avoid paying taxes. Hundreds of journalists worked together in secret to comb through over 11 million confidential documents, publishing their findings in April.
The leak revealed the financial secrets of some of the world’s most powerful people, from soccer star Lionel Messi to former Miss World and Bollywood icon Aishwarya Rai, and it led to the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister.
Tax authorities from across the world asked journalists to give them access to the Panama Papers archive, but all were denied. “As journalists, we have to protect our source: We can’t guarantee that there is no way for someone to find out who the source is with the data. Thats why we cant make the data public,” the Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung’s investigative unit explained on Reddit.
The Danish authorities took a different approach.
Taxation minister Karsten Lauritzen confirmed the Danish government have accepted an anonymous offer (link in Danish) to buy data from the Panama Papers. The government reviewed a sample of documents before agreeing to the deal, which cost around 9 million kroner ($1.4 million), according to the BBC. The data features up to 600 Danish citizens, and the authorities hope to use the data to investigate whether the Danes who feature in the offshore archive evaded tax.
“We owe it to all Danish taxpayers who faithfully pay their taxes,” Lauritzen said in a statement (link in Danish). Lauritzen did reveal that another government put him in touch with the anonymous source, who appears to have access to the underlying documents in the Panama Papers. The Guardian speculates that the other government is Germany, which has bought Mossack Fonseca’s information in the past.