Monday 4 April 2016

The Panama Papers

The leaked Mossack Fonseca "Panama Papers" contain some 11 million documents. That's over 2 terabytes of data, yet the way the information has been released has allowed much of the mainstream press to immediately fixate their coverage upon enemies of the west, especially Vladimir Putin, whilst including little or no information on the involvement of major western corporations and American politicians, or information on the deep British involvement in the scandal.  

The "corporate media gatekeepers"  

In an article entitled "Corporate media gatekeepers protect western 1% from Panama leak" the anti-corruption blogger Craig Murray points out that: "whoever leaked the Mossack Fonseca papers appears motivated by a genuine desire to expose the system that enables the ultra wealthy to hide their massive stashes, often corruptly obtained and all involved in tax avoidance ...Unfortunately [they] made the dreadful mistake of turning to the western corporate media to publicise the results".

In his blog post Murray goes on to reveal that the leak is being managed by an entity named "The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists" which despite its grandiose name is hardly an unbiased independent organisation, being funded as it it by entities like the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the W K Kellogg Foundation,The Sigrid Rausing Trust (the Tetrapak empire) and the Addesium Foundation (George Soros).

It's clear that an organisation that is heavily funded by foundations belonging to US based corporate billionaires have been cherry-picking the data and selectively releasing what they choose to. If you visit the ICIJ page detailing the leaks it turns out that they don't list a single US leader, politician or public official as being involved in the scandal!

The way that the initial leaks have been handled means that the focus of the mainstream media coverage has primarily been aimed at enemies of the West (especially Vladimir Putin), with most of the rest of the coverage focusing on government and public officials and their families from an assortment of countries, very few of them western countries.

The mainstream coverage of the leak has uniformly failed to point out that the main clients of businesses like Mossack Fonseca are corporations and corporate executives establishing networks of offshore shell companies. Still, it hardly seems like a surprise that an investigative team massively funded by the US based foundations belonging to corporate billionaires is not directing their focus on American involvement, or the massive web of corporate shell companies.

British involvement

Another factor to consider is the British complicity in all of this. Of course there is the headline grabbing detail that David Cameron's dad was involved, but then it's been public knowledge that David Cameron's dad Ian was a tax-dodger and that David Cameron inherited part of his dad's tax-dodging fortune for years. However the much bigger story is that over half of the 300,000 Mossack Fonseca clients are registered in British administered tax havens.

It also turns out that the UK is second most common country in which intermediaries operate (after the former British colony of Hong Kong) and that by far the most common jurisdiction of incorporation for corporate entities involved with Mossack Fonseca is the British dependency of the British Virgin Islands, accounting for more than half of the total.

David Cameron's response to the leak of the Panama Papers was to spout a bit more empty tough-talking rhetoric and to talk up a summit on tax secrecy in May.

It would take an extraordinary amount of gullibility to believe the bluff and bluster from the likes of David Cameron and George Osborne when it comes to their tough talking rhetoric on tax-dodging, when the Tory party receives millions in donations from tax-dodging individuals and corporations and is led by a guy who inherited his family fortune from his tax-dodging father!

London is indisputably the global capital of the tax avoidance industry and many of the biggest tax havens the global super-rich use to stash an estimated £21 trillion+ are British dependencies like the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Guernsey, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man. and the Tory party is heavily bankrolled by the City of London financial sector that has built up a lucrative trade in hiding people's cash overseas.

The idea of a Tory like David Cameron organising a summit on combating tax secrecy is like a fox organising a summit on ensuring chicken safety.

Obvious targets

Somehow there isn't a single US politician or official in the ICIJ list, but there are a few sacrificial lambs from other western countries. Interestingly, almost all of them have already been publicly exposed as having offshore business interests or being outright corrupt.
It's pretty amazing that practically the only western politician to get named in this scandal who doesn't already have some kind of dodgy background is the Prime Minister of Iceland.

What's still to come?

It's worth pointing out that there is still an awful lot of information to be released, so it's entirely possible that the ICIJ team could play it out like the Snowden leaks with a gradual drip-feed of damning revelations stretching out for months. An optimist might expect some actual revelations about US politicians at some point and some damning details on the corporations that make up the majority of the company's client base.


It doesn't matter how optimistic you are about future revelations, the complete lack of information on corrupt US officials in the original tranche of leaks is deeply suspicious, as is the lack of detail on the corporations and corporate executives that make up most of the Mossack Fonseca client base.

Directing so much attention towards enemies of the west (with just a small selection of extremely obvious targets in the west) the ICIJ have helped much of the UK mainstream media to frame to debate on this tax-dodging scandal as being some kind of foreign problem, rather than a problem that the British establishment, British overseas territories, and no doubt a lot of British corporations, are deeply involved in.

Whether facilitating the mainstream media framing of the debate like this was done intentionally or not, because of the way it's been presented it's given an awful lot of British people an excuse to shrug the whole lot off as largely foreign corruption, when British overseas territories are at the very heart of it..

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George Osborne's £22 billion rip-off

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