Birkenfeld, an American, worked at UBS in Switzerland when he leaked information to the U.S. government on large amounts of tax evasion by Americans with secret accounts in Switzerland. After the revelation, Birkenfeld served two and a half years in federal prison, but he was also awarded $104 million by the IRS for releasing the information.
“The CIA, I’m sure is behind this, in my opinion,” Birkenfeld told CNBC.
The Panama Papers were released on April 3 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other news organizations.
The data breach, which included 11.5 million documents from the Mossack Fonseca law firm, named 12 world leaders and 140 other politicians in connection to offshore companies in 21 tax havens.
The names included Vladimir Putin, Argentine president Mauricio Macri, and Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who has since stepped down and is serving as chairman of the Progressive Party.
Birkenfeld noted that the Panama Papers mainly mentioned individuals in countries with tense relationships with the United States.
“The very fact that we see all these names surface that are the direct quote-unquote enemies of the United States—Russia, China, Pakistan, Argentina and we don’t see one U.S. name. Why is that?” Birkenfeld said.
“Quite frankly, my feeling is that this is certainly an intelligence agency operation.”
However, the data breach also deeply affected U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, a major ally of the United States. Birkefeld said Cameron was probably collateral in a much larger intelligence operation.
“If you’ve got NSA and CIA spying on foreign governments, they can certainly get into a law firm like this,” Birkenfeld told CNBC.
“But they selectively bring the information to the public domain that doesn’t hurt the U.S. in any shape or form. That’s wrong. And there’s something seriously sinister here behind this,” he added.
Birkenfeld isn’t the only one to claim a U.S. agency was behind the Panama Papers. After the release of the Mossack Fonseca records, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the leak was a plot orchestrated by U.S. government officials and spy agencies, according to The Guardian. Putin also described the Panama Papers as an attempt to destabilize Russia.