REYKJAVIK - Iceland’s prime minister resigned Tuesday, becoming the first political victim of a mushrooming worldwide scandal over hidden offshore financial dealings exposed in the so-called Panama Papers .

Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was the biggest casualty of a worldwide media probe into 11.5 million leaked documents that purportedly reveal the offshore financial activities of 140 political figures, including 12 current or former heads of state.

“The prime minister told (his party’s) parliamentary group meeting that he would step down as prime minister and I will take over,” the Progressive Party’s deputy leader Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson told a live broadcast.

A series of other leaders and stars fingered in the leaked papers have hit back at the allegations, denying any wrongdoing despite the international furore.

Those named include Russian President Vladimir Putin’s associates, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s relatives, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s later father and celebrities such as Argentine footballing great Lionel Messi.

Iceland’s leader had been under immense pressure after the papers, leaked from a Panamanian law firm, appeared to show that he and his wife Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir owned an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands and placed millions of dollars there.

Though the prime minister denied ever hiding money abroad, pressure on his government had mounted, with egg-throwing protesters gathering in the streets Monday and fresh demonstrations planned Tuesday.

The vast stash of records from Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca was obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with more than 100 media groups by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The network of journalists published their first findings Sunday after a year-long probe.

In Beijing, there was no official reaction to ICIJ allegations that eight current or former members of the ruling party’s most powerful body concealed their fortunes through offshore havens, as well as relatives of Xi Jinping, who has overseen a much-publicised anti-corruption drive.

Asked whether China would investigate those named in the reports, however, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: “For such groundless accusations, I have no comment.”

Beijing also moved to limit local access to coverage of the matter. State media denounced Western reporting on it as biased against non-Western leaders.

The Kremlin suggested a US plot after the leaks put a close friend of Putin’s at the top of an offshore empire worth more than $2 billion.

Messi’s family denied any wrongdoing after the footballer and his father were named as owners of a Panama company that had not previously been disclosed during a Spanish probe into their tax affairs.

Spanish tax authorities said they are investigating allegations of tax irregularities involving Messi after the release of the documents.

Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands are among nations that have started inquiries. A judicial source said Spain had opened a money-laundering probe into the law firm.

“We need to make sure that not just ordinary citizens pay their taxes but also people who have a lot of money, who earn a lot of money, pay their taxes where they make that money and don’t hide the money,” visiting European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told reporters Tuesday in the Polish capital Warsaw.

Panama has pledged to identify whether any crimes had been committed and any financial damages should be awarded.

But France’s Finance Minister Michel Sapin said his country would put Panama back on its list of countries that do not cooperate in efforts to track down tax dodgers following the revelations.

Among the latest allegations of the Panama Papers investigations:

- A North Korean front company used to help fund the country’s nuclear weapons programme, Pyongyang-based DCB Finance Ltd, was among Mossack Fonseca’s clients, according to the BBC and The Guardian.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s father ran an offshore fund that paid no tax in Britain for 30 years.

Aides to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen put in place a “sophisticated offshore system” to hide money, according to Le Monde newspaper.

Syria used Mossack Fonseca to create shell companies to help it break international sanctions and fund its war effort, the French paper said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denied any wrongdoing, but he may face an attempt to impeach him.

Mossack Fonseca is subject to investigations in Germany and also in Brazil, where it is part of a huge money laundering probe that has threatened to topple the current government.

The president of Chilean branch of Transparency International resigned after being implicated in the corruption scandal.

Mossack Fonseca denies any wrongdoing and on Tuesday, Panama President Juan Carlos Varela’s chief of staff told a news conference that the government could retaliate after France announced it would put the Central American country back on its blacklist of uncooperative tax jurisdictions. The official, Alvaro Aleman, said that no Panamanian company had been found to have committed a crime.

Among those named in the documents are friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the leaders of China, Britain and Pakistan, and the president of Ukraine.

Gunnlaugsson quit ahead of a planned vote of no-confidence, hours after asking the president to dissolve parliament, a move which would almost certainly have led to a new election.

Thousands gathered outside the Icelandic parliament in Reykjavik on Monday to protest about what the opposition said was Gunnlaugsson’s failure to disclose a conflict of interest over his wife’s offshore company, which has big claims on Iceland’s collapsed banks.

The prime minister has stressed his wife’s overseas assets were taxed in Iceland.

A government spokesman has said the claims against Iceland’s collapsed banks held by the firm owned by Gunnlaugsson’s wife totalled more than 500 million Icelandic crowns ($4.1 million).

Other leading figures and financial institutions responded to the leak with denials of any wrongdoing as prosecutors and regulators began a review of the investigation by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and other media organisations.

Mossack Fonseca’s Hong Kong office said on Tuesday the firm had never been charged with or formally investigated for criminal wrongdoing in its nearly 40 years of operation.

Beijing also moved to limit local access to coverage of the matter. State media denounced Western reporting on it as biased against non-Western leaders.

The Hong Kong government said its tax department would take “necessary actions” based on any information it received.

Credit Suisse and HSBC, two of the world’s largest wealth managers, dismissed suggestions they were actively using offshore structures to help clients evade tax.

Both were among the banks that helped to set up complex structures that make it hard for tax collectors and investigators to track the flow of money, according to ICIJ.