“John Doe,” the leaker behind the bombshell Panama Papers leaks made their first public statement today, criticizing global legal systems and media organizations for failing to hold the wealthy accountable.
In what amounts to an 1,800-word manifesto released through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the source shared their motivations for releasing 2.6 terabytes worth of legal documents revealing offshore companies and tax evasion around the globe. They say they decided to share the files “simply because I understood enough about their contents to realize the scale of the injustices they described.”.
Last year, the source delivered the massive trove of secret files from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The newspaper then shared it with the ICIJ, which worked with reporters around the world—including at Fusion—to tell the story.
But the manifesto is the first time the public is hearing directly from the leaker. Unlike NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, for example, the source has not revealed their identity, and we don’t know their gender. (Süddeutsche Zeitung says they’ve confirmed the statement came from the Panama Papers source, but we can’t independently verify that.)
In the statement, the leaker denies ever having worked for any intelligence agency—in an apparent nod to speculation from the Russian government that they might be a U.S. government agent. “I decided to expose Mossack Fonseca because I thought its founders, employees and clients should have to answer for their roles in these crimes, only some of which have come to light thus far,” they write. “It will take years, possibly decades, for the full extent of the firm’s sordid acts to become known.”
Doe accuses the law firm of breaking laws to help its clients, also alleging that the firm’s cofounder and head, Jurgen Mossack, committed perjury in a federal court when he denied specific links between his company and a Mossack-connected office in Nevada. [Fusion previously noted the apparent contradiction between Mossack’s testimony and the company’s business practices, but did not investigate whether it was perjury; there are no U.S. or Nevada charges pending against Mossack. A Mossack Fonseca spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.]
Doe says they’re willing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies and give them copies of the documents. But they also note how other whistleblowers around the globe have been punished for their actions. “I have watched as one after another, whistleblowers 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,” says Doe, noting how Snowden has been forced to stay in Moscow.
Doe reserves some of the harshest criticism for the media. “Many news networks are cartoonish parodies of their former selves,” they write. “The sad truth is that among the most prominent and capable media organizations in the world there was not a single one interested in reporting on the story.”
But Doe doesn’t just have harsh words for traditional media organizations. Doe calls out Wikileaks for not answering repeated messages left on their tipline. Wikileaks representatives did not respond to multiple public and private social media requests for comment.
The leaker says they’re proud of the global debate that the leaks started over shell companies and tax evasion around the world. That debate has led to the resignation of Iceland’s Prime Minister and tough questions for political leaders and celebrities.
But Doe warns that the revelations in the papers should make people worry about the status of the western democratic system. “When it takes a whistleblower to sound the alarm, it is cause for even greater concern,” Doe writes. “It signals that democracy’s checks and balances have all failed, that the breakdown is systemic, and that severe instability could be just around the corner. So now is the time for real action, and that starts with asking questions.”
Here’s the manifesto in full: