Excerpt of remarks by Dr. Taras Kuzio, Senior Research Associate, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, Kyiv, Ukraine, 4 April 2016.
By Andre Damon in the USA:
“Panama papers” tax evasion leak stokes political crises worldwide
5 April 2016
On Sunday evening, a group of over 100 global newspapers, in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), began releasing reports on corruption, money laundering and other fraudulent activities by leading global politicians and business people disclosed in what the ICIJ called the “biggest leak of inside information in history.”
The reports are based on 11.5 million confidential documents from the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca that provide detailed information on more than 214,000 offshore companies.
The documents, according to the ICIJ, “Reveal the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials around the world—including 12 current and former world leaders. Among them: the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia.”
The firm also set up accounts used by 29 billionaires listed in Forbes magazine’s ranking of the world’s 500 richest people.
The release of the report triggered scandals and investigations in over a dozen countries, including Iceland, the UK, Chile, France, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, the United States, Germany, Brazil, Canada, Norway and Sweden.
Up to 10,000 people participated in a demonstration in front of the parliament building in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, to demand flash elections after leaked documents showed that Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, of the center-right Progressive Party, hid assets in an offshore company that he failed to disclose while serving in the country’s parliament.
The documents also revealed that Ian Cameron, the father of the British prime minister, and other prominent members of the Conservative Party were clients of Mossack Fonseca. When asked whether the prime minister’s family had any more money invested in the funds, a spokeswoman for Cameron replied, “That is a private matter.”
Ukrainian lawmakers have demanded an investigation after the documents revealed that President Petro Poroshenko, who was brought into power after the 2014 US-backed coup, moved his assets to an offshore account to avoid paying taxes.
The investigation also indicated that Mauricio Macri, president of Argentina, had served as a director of an offshore company in the Bahamas.
US and British newspapers sought to put an anti-Russian spin on the revelations, with the British Guardian concentrating its reporting on claims that individuals with connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin were involved in multi-billion-dollar offshore deals. Reuters, in reporting the Guardian’s claims, wrote that it “could not confirm those details.”
The documents, amounting to some 2.6 terabytes, were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung in August 2015 by an unnamed individual who said he wanted to expose criminal wrongdoing. The files were reviewed by a team of over 300 journalists over the course of a year prior to the coordinated publication of reports Sunday.
The documents reveal that Mossack Fonseca, far from being an aberration, was an integral part of the operations of leading global banks. As ICIJ put it, “The documents make it clear that major banks are big drivers behind the creation of hard-to-trace companies in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other offshore havens. The files list nearly 15,600 paper companies that banks set up for clients who want to keep their finances under wraps, including thousands created by international giants UBS and HSBC.”
According to the ICIJ, among the services offered by the firm were the back-dating of corporate documents and the destruction of evidence to prevent criminal prosecution. …
Sunday’s revelations follow a release of documents by the ICIJ in 2015 that showed that the Swiss private banking arm of HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, functioned for years as a tax evasion and money laundering firm. The company ran a branch that gave out “bricks” of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in foreign denominations and provided its wealthy clientele with advice on how to commit tax fraud, according to the reports.
The ICIJ report provides extensive documentation of the claims by University of California economist Gabriel Zucman, who has estimated that 8 percent of global financial wealth, amounting to some $7.6 trillion, is hidden in offshore tax havens. “These findings show how deeply ingrained harmful practices and criminality are in the offshore world,” Zucman said in response to the reports.
“One leak exposed a global web of over 200,000 offshore shell companies: Imagine what leaks at other well-placed law firms and banks would expose?”
Mark Williams, a lecturer at Boston University, told Bloomberg, “This leak is proof that despite explicit banking laws against tax evasion, criminal uses and money laundering, the global offshore shell game business remains open for the wealthy and well connected.”
While the US was the fourth-most popular country for the shell companies set up by Mossack Fonseca to operate, no high-profile individuals in the US were exposed as having had accounts. Some experts speculated that this was simply because of the fact that, with extremely limited financial regulation, particularly in some state and local jurisdictions, wealthly Americans wishing to hide their assets or launder money can easily do so at home.
Shima Baradaran Baughman, a law Professor University of Utah, College of Law, told Fusion, “Americans can form shell companies right in Wyoming, Delaware or Nevada. They have no need to go to Panama to form a shell company to use for illicit activities.”
This new scandal should not be confused with the 1892 Panama scandal.
This music video from Britain says about itself:
The official video for The Members classic Offshore Banking Business – Featuring the Members and legendary reggae trombonist Rico Rodriguez and his then partner Dick Cuthell on flugelhorn.
This song released in 1979 pre-dates most UK reggae and is as relevant today as it was then. Rodriguez and Cuthell went on to perform with The Specials but they were with the Members first.
By James Tweedie in Britain:
Trade unions call for global clean-up on tax avoidance
Tuesday 5th April 2016
Leaks expose huge list of politicians and monarchs tied up in scandal
LEFT parties and trade unions called for a clean-up of tax avoidance and corruption yesterday in the wake of the explosive Panama Papers leak.
The leaked papers list thousands of companies and wealthy individuals who have funnelled money to offshore accounts in tax havens set up by Mossack Fonseca.
The documents were published by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its parent body the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
The Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament called on the EU to crack down on tax dodging.
And in Australia, where some 800 individuals are being investigated following the leak, the Council of Trade Unions called on PM Malcolm Turnbull — whose Liberal Party faces charges of receiving illegal donations — to establish a national anti-corruption commission.
President Mauricio Macri’s business group used Mosack Fonseca to set up a company in the Bahamas in 1998, subsequently wound up in 2009. Mr Macri was was a director and vicepresident of Fleg Trading while serving as mayor of Buenos Aires, but never disclosed his interest in the firm. …
Parliamentary speaker Eduardo Cunha, already facing charges in the “Car Wash” bribery scandal at state oil company Petrobras, is indirectly implicated. Idalecio de Castro Rodrigues de Oliveira, accused of paying bribes to Mr Cunha — would-be nemesis of left-wing President Dilma Rousseff — is listed in the files.
While President Vladimir Putin is not directly implicated, up to $2 billion (£1.4bn) has been “shuffled through” offshore accounts linked to his associates, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. …
Multimillionaire President Petro Poroshenko promised to sell sweets manufacturer Roshen when he ran for office in 2014. Instead he transferred it to a holding company in the British Virgin Islands. His financial advisers claim that was to make Roshen more attractive to potential international buyers, but it also saved the leader of the Kiev coup regime millions in tax.
President Enrique Pena Nieto’s “favourite contractor” Juan Armando Hinojosa, who built his business empire with the help of lucrative government contracts, is on the list. He was previously involved in the 2014 “White House scandal” where First Lady and soap opera actress Angea Rivera bought a £5 million mansion, claiming that she borrowed £2.8 million of that from one of Mr Hijonosa’s firms.
Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson refused to resign yesterday after the leak revealed he and his wife Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir set up British Virgin Islands firm Wintris in 2007. He allegedly sold his half of the company to Ms Palsdottir for $1 on December 31 2009, the day before a new law took effect that would have required him to declare the ownership as a conflict of interest.
This video says about itself:
Iceland: thousands protest, call for PM to resign over ‘Panama Papers’ leaks
4 April 2016
Thousands of Icelanders “took to the streets” calling on the Prime Minister to resign, following allegations he benefited from offshore holdings in tax havens.
Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson and his wife are cited in the so-called Panama Papers as having hidden millions of dollars of investments in Icelandic banks through a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.
By Lamiat Sabin in Britain today:
BRITAIN is the centre of the world’s largest secret financial networks and recent reports are “just the tip of the iceberg,” Labour frontbencher Diane Abbott said yesterday.
The shadow secretary for international development said a “meaningful reform” of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is needed after names of tax avoiders was leaked among millions of files from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.
But critical improvements are being stalled by a global elite which is profiting from legal schemes which shadow chancellor John McDonnell has criticised as “immoral.”
Individuals, multinational firms and 72 former and current world leaders are “making a killing” in money laundering and avoiding sanctions in overseas territories such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the Cayman Islands and Jersey, added Ms Abbott.
She continued: “We knew global corporations were avoiding tax, now the Panama leaks have shown us that world leaders are at it too. But Panama is only the tip of the iceberg. This is a stitch up.”
This video from Britain says about itself:
4 April 2016
Panama papers expose Cameron family among other powerful tax dodgers
By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:
Cameron hit by Panama Papers
Tuesday 5th April 2016
PM’s own inheritance comes under the spotlight
DAVID CAMERON’S dad was named yesterday as one of hundreds of wealthy tax avoiders in a massive document leak from an offshore tax haven law firm.
Millions of papers from secretive Panama-based company Mossack Fonseca were sent out to journalists, exposing what shadow chancellor John McDonnell called a “repulsive” global culture of tax dodging by the rich and powerful.
And Ian Cameron, who died in 2010, was revealed to have used the firm to hide profits from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) — to which the business has not paid a penny in British tax for 30 years.
His million-pound legacy Blairmore Holdings Inc was partly inherited by Prime Minister Cameron after his death.
The revelations piled more pressure on Mr Cameron as opposition parties ramped up their demands for a formal investigation into overseas firms helping corporations, world leaders and criminals avoid paying into public funds in their respective countries.
The name of his stockbroker father was found alongside those of six peers, three former Tory MPs and “dozens” of British party donors who had used tax havens.
These included extremely wealthy Tory politicians Lord Ashcroft, Baroness Pamela Sharples and MP Michael Mates.
Hitting out last night Mr McDonnell said: “The revelations in the Panama Papers are extremely serious and frankly repulsive.
HMRC should treat this with the utmost priority. “But HMRC cannot operate with their hands tied behind their backs due to George Osborne’s cuts to staffing.
“On six occasions last year Tory MEPs were instructed to vote down proposals to clamp down on multinationals engaged in tax avoidance.
“We are at a crossroads now and the Tories can’t continue to say one thing in public, but do another in private on tax avoidance when they think no-one will notice.”
Downing Street claimed that the Cameron family tax avoidance issue and whether they were still using offshore investments was a “private matter.”
It also insisted that the PM was pushing for more transparency in the murky financial sector.
But Mr McDonnell was joined in his criticisms and the PM was urged to take “real action” by the Greens, SNP and Lib Dems after the Panama data leak exposed the huge scale of the rich and powerful hiding assets.
The expose comes as the PM prepares to chair an international summit on tackling corruption next month, where tax havens are expected to be high on the agenda.
Seventy-two former and current world leaders have also been named with allegations of money laundering, siphoning off national wealth, and dodging sanctions.
More than 11 million documents were leaked from Mossack Fonseca and passed to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, before being shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to 107 media organisations.
Britain is the second most prominent place, after Hong Kong, where the law firm’s middlemen operate, with 1,924 companies involved, an analysis by ICIJ shows.
In the ranks of the number of “active intermediaries,” it came third with 32,682, second only to Switzerland with 34,301 and Hong Kong with 37,675.
HMRC has approached the ICIJ for access to the data and said it would “act on it swiftly and appropriately” if there was any wrongdoing.
FASCINATING though it is to hear that politicians from other countries are as bent as a clockwork orange, it beggars belief that a BBC TV programme on tax havens ignored Britain’s central role in this financial abuse. The so-called Panama Papers leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca look like a huge deal, but they are the tip of the iceberg. There are around 28 tax havens around the world under British legal jurisdiction and no-one denies that the justification for their existence is, as the name suggests, to enable big business and rich individuals to reduce the amount of tax they pay: here.
By Joana Ramiro in Britain:
British firms should look close to home
Tuesday 5th April 2016
FORMER British ambassador Craig Murray accused “corporate media” groups of hiding important information from their coverage of the Panama Papers yesterday.
The one-time ambassador to Uzbekistan suggested that the groups with access to the Mossack Fonseca leak, such as the Guardian and the BBC, would focus their coverage on countries other than Britain.
“They are protecting themselves from even seeing Western corporations’ sensitive information by only looking at those documents which are brought up by specific searches such as UN sanctions busters,” Mr Murray wrote on his blog.
“Never forget the Guardian smashed its copies of the Snowden files on the instruction of MI6.”
He added: “What if they did Mossack Fonseca database searches on the owners of all the corporate media and their companies, and all the editors and senior corporate media journalists?
“What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on all the most senior people at the BBC?” …
The ICIJ’s largest funder is the US-based Centre for Public Integrity, which in turn is sponsored by billionaire trusts such as the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the W K Kellogg Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment.
According to Mr Murray, an investigation into companies listed on every Western stock exchange might have been “much more interesting” than the revelations on Russian corruption.
“What if you look at things that we might, here in the West, be able to rise up and do something about?”
The Panama papers show politicians have stopped representing ordinary people and chosen to serve the interests of powerful corporations and the wealthy, says RABBIL SIKDAR: here.