#PanamaPapers was the top trending topic on Twitter yesterday. It is trending on Facebook and on the front page of reddit.
Why? What is this all about?
Yesterday, news broke of a year-long investigation into offshore shell corporations. These companies have been used by some of the world’s most notable politicians and leaders to hide billions of dollars. The investigation is being called the “Panama Papers” scandal because the information was leaked from a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, by an anonymous source.
The data was initially obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The scope of the leak is massive—11.5 million documents on 214,000 shell companies spanning a period from 1977 to 2015. This may be the largest leak of classified information in history. Nearly 400 journalists in more than twenty-five languages have worked on the story over the last year.
According to the BBC, the leak reveals information about seventy-two current or former heads of state. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak, and Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi were included. According to The Guardian, associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly moved as much as $2 billion through offshore accounts.
Australia is investigating more than 800 wealthy clients of Mossack Fonseca for possible tax evasion. Iceland’s prime minister is allegedly tied to secret shell companies and now faces calls to resign. The leaders of Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, and Pakistan are included in the report. Ian Cameron, late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, was also a client, shielding his investment fund from British taxes.
The ICIJ plans to release the full list of companies and people linked to them in early May. We will learn much more as this scandal continues to unfold.
While many who used these shell companies broke no laws, some apparently did. Now they are learning the truth of Scripture: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). The “Panama Papers” scandal proves that “secret sin” is an oxymoron.
There is an important spiritual lesson here. While Satan wants Christians to commit public sins that damage our witness and harm other people, he is also pleased with our “secret” sins. He knows that all sin, whether public or private, separates us from our holy Father and the power of the Holy Spirit.
And he knows that we are more likely to tolerate, excuse, or even ignore our private sins, secure in the delusion that they have no consequence. According to C. S. Lewis’s demonic tempter Screwtape, “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
The longer cancer remains, the more it grows.