Panama Papers scandal and Britain

This music video, recorded in the USA, says about itself:

16 April 2013

The Members singing Offshore Banking Business live, possibly at the Santa Monica Civic Center in Los Angeles.

This clip was taken from the movie “Urgh A Music War”.

The lyrics of the song are here.

By Joe Gill in Britain:

Panama Papers: Britain’s offshore finance empire exposed

Thursday 7th April 2017

EDWARD SNOWDEN and WikiLeaks step aside. The Panama Papers leak, by revealing four decades worth of financial skullduggery connected to dozens of ruling families and elected leaders, is a fast-moving hurricane smashing through the political establishments of east and west —although mainly the West.

At time of writing, it has toppled Iceland’s prime minister, created a major headache for David Cameron and spotlighted the wealth-stashing antics of a dozen heads of state, half from the Middle East.

But while tax-conscious Western electorates may look in horror at their leaders’ financial affairs, the same may not be the case in countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, where leaders’ family wealth is no surprise and paying tax has never been obligatory.

What we do now know is that the rulers of states from Ukraine through to Middle Eastern and North African countries, as well as members of the British Parliament, use shell companies in a country known for washing the money of Latin American drug cartels.

The tiny country of Panama was itself carved out of the narrow waist of the Americas by US President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 at the behest of US banking cartels. In The Sink, a book about tax havens, a US customs official says of Panama: “The country is filled with dishonest lawyers, dishonest bankers, dishonest company formation agents and dishonest companies registered there by those dishonest lawyers so that they can deposit dirty money into their dishonest banks.”

But the vastness of the Panama Papers includes documents relating to other Caribbean boltholes for hidden wealth, most of all the favourite offshore hideaway of the British Virgin Islands.

This system of unregulated finance has enabled the millionaire and billionaire classes to avoid paying the kind of taxes that ordinary people living in sovereign states can’t avoid. Now the chickens have come home to roost.

Not surprisingly, tax havens grew to maturity in an era of high taxes for the well-off — the 1960s and 1970s, when a British chancellor famously said he would “squeeze the rich till the pips squeak.”

That all changed after 1979. Then prime minister Margaret Thatcher removed capital and currency controls so the likes of Cameron’s father could make millions in the lucrative business of moving money offshore for rich clients.

But the offshore system was not just of benefit to Britain’s capitalist class. The modern shadow finance archipelago is a by-product of Britain’s retreat from empire — a system that is now enjoyed by the elites of the Middle East and former Soviet Union.

When the 1973 Arab-Israeli war sparked an oil price hike, Gulf Arab states were suddenly flush with billions in hard currency and the City of London welcomed the Gulf millionaires with open arms.

By the early 1980s the Bank of International Settlement (BIS) quarterly statistics showed that about half of all international banking assets and liabilities were routed through offshore financial centres.

In the early 1990s the new rich of the former communist states joined the party. As a Russian banker told Channel 4 News this week, when the Soviet Union collapsed, financial advisers from the City of London saw a grand opportunity for new business among the oligarchs who were snapping up Soviet state assets. Stash your new wealth in our offshore banking system where neither Russian nor any other tax authority can find it, they advised.

Today, individual tax avoidance and evasion is estimated to be upwards of a trillion dollars a year, and that doesn’t include the offshore billions belonging to multinationals.

It’s an open secret that the trillions kept offshore make the austerity imposed on Western populations since the banking crash of 2008 a vicious joke. If the British Virgin Islands and Britain’s other offshore territories were brought to heel and forced to co-operate with national tax authorities, the whole iniquitous system could be overhauled and billions in unpaid taxes used to fill the budget gaps of national governments.

No-one can suggest this would be easy. Some of these are no longer British jurisdictions, such as Hong Kong and Singapore — hence the risk of financial whack-a-mole if efforts against tax havens are attempted piecemeal.

These outlaw islands of tax avoidance and evasion exist because our political elites and their rich friends favour them. Politically, of course, this system has allowed Britain to leverage influence and money out of its foreign clients and allies — the same people who use London property as an asset base where they can also send their children to expensive private schools. The British Establishment will not want to lose that.

There is a further issue of how the Panama Papers leak was acquired by German authorities and shared with the international media, focusing, for example, on Russian President Vladimir Putin when he was not mentioned in the papers, rather than Western-backed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is now defending the fact that he has an offshore company in [the British Virgin Islands via] Panama.

Clearly, authorities and media in the US and Britain will use the Panama Papers to pursue political agendas, but that does not take away from the tremendous service the whistleblower has done the people of the world.

Icelanders have removed their prime minister following mass protests, although the Middle East dynasties will likely bury the Panama revelations along with many other scandals that never see the light of day. As for Cameron, it could be one of the nails in the coffin of his political career.

UK government moves to prop up super-rich tax haven operations in British Virgin Islands: here.

9 thoughts on “Panama Papers scandal and Britain

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