It has been a month since a worldwide partnership of newspapers and media organizations went public with the leak of 11.5 million documents detailing the offshore dealings of more than 200,000 business entities. The Panama Papers—so called because the leaked documents came from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca—were first published April 3 and filled with the names of financial elites, celebrities and world leaders as well as international criminals.
While offshore entities are legal, they are often used to funnel money through tax-free channels, keep wealth secret or elude regulators.
Beyond the big name disclosures are also tens of thousands of regular people whose investments or trusts were knowingly or unknowingly being held by firms that sometimes did business with suspected drug dealers, gun runners and terrorists.
On May 9, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made public a searchable database of the leak, which has meant the rich, famous and tax averse are now outed alongside modest investors, small businesses and, occasionally, those duped by dubious schemes.
Relative to others in the data, Americans rarely crop up—in large part because the United States is ranked as the third biggest tax haven on the planet, according to The Guardian, which was one of the news outlets involved in reporting the Panama Papers. By comparison, The Guardian ranked Panama 13th among locations where it is easiest to hide money.
Still, a search of the data returned nine listings with Idaho addresses, spanning the state from Post Falls to Ketchum, Sun Valley, Twin Falls, Meridian and Eagle.
Notably, a number of Idaho shareholders were listed under Accelonic Ltd., an offshore company with more than 1,000 officers around the world. Unbeknownst to many of the shareholders, Accelonic (inactive since May 2014) was directed by Slobodan Andjic, a crony of late-Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. When Accelonic acquired Canada-based Blue Earth Refineries—a cobalt mining firm working in Uganda—it acquired many of its unwitting stockholders.
As first reported by The Seattle Times, hundreds of Washington state residents were tied up with Accelonic and Blue Earth, often through a series of corporate maneuvers so complex, they lost track of where they money was being held.
"I had no idea," 78-year-old Seattle resident Vernon Jenkins told the Times. "I think it became a scam after my initial investment."
Washingtonians weren't the only ones invested in Accelonic. According to the database, eight Idaho individuals were stakeholders in the company, including Murray Stookey, of Meridian.
Like many Accelonic investors in Washington, Stookey was originally an investor in Blue Earth.
"I still have the stock certificates," he said.
That doesn't mean Stookey ever saw much return on his investment, which was placed through a broker in Seattle.
"Some of that stuff I try to forget," he said. "I don't remember the Uganda part of it. I know the Canadian firm—Blue Earth—became worth a couple of pennies and then it disappeared."
This isn't the first time Stookey has wrangled with the murky shell game of offshore investments. In 2012, Stookey sued a pair of business owners with whom he'd invested for fraud after they breached their contracts.
"One of the fellows involved lent some money to some scoundrels offshore," he said.
Stookey received a judgement of more than $1 million, but the judgement was negated in bankruptcy court. He said he later secured a promise from one of the parties to pay $50,000, but still hasn't seen a dime.
"He's already had time enough to get all his assets hidden," Stookey said. "That's just the way they operate."
Aside from a handful of other listings—including a small Eagle-based producer of chemicals that prolong the storage life of potatoes—the highest profile Idaho listing in the Panama Papers data released May 9 was related to Cole Sirucek.
With an address given in Twin Falls, Sirucek and his wife, Grace Park, were named as shareholders of Uluwatu Holdings Ltd., registered in the British Virgin Islands and whose intermediary is shown as Mossack Fonseca in Thailand.
A graduate of Twin Falls High School, University of Idaho, Harvard and MIT, Sirucek became a successful investor and entrepreneur, founding Epic MMA Club, which is billed as Asia's biggest mixed martial arts training center. He has spent more than a decade working in technology, media and entertainment, and in 2013 presented a TEDx lecture in Hong Kong on the subject of MMA: "More Than a Blood Sport."
Based in Singapore—ranked as the fourth most active tax haven by The Guardian—Sirucek and Park also founded DocDoc, a web-based company that helps residents in nine Asian countries connect with more than 40,000 doctors in order to ensure quality care.
In late April, DocDoc secured $8.6 million in funding to expand its business. Meanwhile, DocDoc appears three times in the recent Panama Papers disclosures: once as DocDoc Enterprises Inc. (with shareholders Grace Park, Uluwatu Holdings and DocDoc Pte. Ltd., and Mossack Fonseca as intermediary) and once more as DocDoc Holding Limited (with a range of shareholders representing medical and investment interests).
In an online message from Singapore, where he has lived and worked for 13 years, Sirucek wrote the "real story is not who has offshore companies. There are thousands of legitimate reasons to do so."
Rather, he wrote, "it made no sense to have U.S.-listed companies, as my investors and markets were not the U.S."
Speaking to Boise Weekly following the first reports on the Panama Papers in April, University of Idaho law professor John Miller said while there may be "nothing nefarious about this in and of itself," the practice of shuttling money through offshore means raises questions.
"First, where did the money being held in these entities come from?" Miller asked. "Second, why was the money held in these entities and hidden from view?"
The sources of offshore cash may be legitimate profits from businesses, inheritance or gifts. In such cases, going offshore is intended for asset protection, which is legal.
"However, U.S. individuals are taxable on their worldwide income," Miller said.Sirucek said he used Mossack Fonseca as a registered agent "as a matter of convenience" and his business—offshore though it may be—is above board.
"If I had not declared my ownership in these companies then this would be tax evasion, and that is the issue," he wrote. "As it is, I have declared everything, so no worries."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to include comments received after press time from Cole Sirucek.