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US DOJ launches Panama Papers probe amid global pressure

Washington: Investigations were launched by prosecutors around the world on Monday in response to a massive data leak linking some of the most powerful people of the world to possible financial crimes.

A U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesman said the probe would help find out the evidence of unscrupulous activities at the offshore companies set up by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, echoing similar statements from authorities in France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Brazil and the Netherlands.

The political leaders named in the so-called Panama Papers released on Sunday are already facing backlash. The leaked data contain over 11.5 million encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca revealing the extent of wealth stashed in "shell" companies based in offshore tax havens.

In Argentina, President Mauricio Macri was asked to explain what he was doing as a director of a now-dissolved offshore company, Fleg Trading, which was managed by Mossack Fonseca in the Bahamas. Macri said in a televised interview that his father - Franco Macri, a rich man - had founded an "offshore company to invest in Brazil, an investment that ultimately wasn't completed."

In Iceland, the opposition parties slapped no-confidence motion on the prime minister after the leaked data revealed that he was the owner of an offshore firm. For his part, PM Gunnaughsson said he would not resign, stressing that all relevant taxes have been paid by his wife.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also denied any wrongdoing after his son and daughter were linked to offshore companies. In Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko defended himself after lawmakers sought an investigation into reports that he had allegedly moved his confectionery business, Roshen, to the British Virgin Islands in 2014 to avoid tax.