The Panama Papers: ‘Biggest Data Leak In History’ Claims to Expose How the Powerful Hide Their Riches

The UK Guardian describes the trove of confidential data stolen from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm that specializes in administering offshore accounts, as “the biggest data leak in history.”

This refers to both the size of the database given to the Guardian and the BBC – 11.5 million files totaling over 2.6 terabytes in size, covering 200,000 clients of the firm – and its significance. The Panama Papers are touted as blowing the lid off the extremely complex financial arrangements employed by world leaders to conceal their vast wealth, and shelter it from the very tax systems some of Mossack Fonseca’s clients preside over.

The Guardian says the Panama Papers leak is an order of magnitude larger than either the diplomatic cables exposed by WikiLeaks in 2010 or the trove of intelligence documents stolen by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, two leaks that indisputably changed the political conversation around the world. Snowden himself chimed in on Twitter to agree that the Panama Papers are the “biggest leak in the history of data journalism.”

Journalists from over 80 countries are said to be analyzing this mountain of data, which was provided by an anonymous source last year.

Among the prominent political leaders with offshore tax havens managed by Mossack Fonseca is Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is portrayed as using his associates to siphon $2 billion from Russian banks into offshore accounts. Putin cronies named in the scheme include his best friend and godfather of his daughter, cellist Sergei Roldugin, and former Olympic ice dancing champion Tatiana Navka, the glamorous wife of Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Everyone involved in helping Putin conceal his fortune in these offshore accounts grew very rich themselves, according to the Guardian.

The UK Daily Mail quotes Peskov denying the Panama Papers revelations, portraying the story as an attack by foreign intelligence services on Putin’s legitimacy “in the context of the coming parliamentary election.”

“Putinophobia has got so hot that a priori nobody can say anything good about Russia, they must say bad things and if there is nothing to say, one must make something up,” Peskov alleged.

The Daily Mail has Navka claiming she does not know anything about the offshore asset company she is listed as the beneficiary of, and implying that her passport, which was found among the company’s papers, might have been stolen and used without her knowledge.

“My wife never had any offshore company and does not have it now, she never opened it and, accordingly, she could not close it down,” declared Peskov, referring to the November 2015 liquidation of the offshore company.

According to the Daily Mail, there appears to be a Russian media blackout on the Panama Papers story in effect, even though it should be a huge story with the potential to shake up the government, because “Russian law forbids senior officials and their families from using foreign financial institutions and offshore vehicles.” Also, the Guardian observes that Putin has been publicly urging his citizens to bring money from abroad back home to Russia, which makes the discovery that Putin has been shuffling billions through secret offshore tax havens more than a little inconvenient.

NBC News spoke with several Russia experts who thought the scandal was more likely to embarrass Putin than severely damage him, noting that he is meticulous about keeping his own name away from the most incriminating documents. However, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer suggested Russia could “respond aggressively” to everyone involved in what it perceives as an attack on its presidency, including billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Foundation, which provided funding for the group of journalists that broke the Panama Papers story.

“I feel fairly confident that the Kremlin will be going after the U.S., Soros, the CIA and this is going to make Russian policy towards the U.S. actually much more sharp and antagonistic,” said Bremmer.

Other national leaders implicated in the scandal include Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former Vice President of Iraq Ayad Allawi, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, Iceland’s Prime Minister Signundur Davio Gunnlaugsson, and one of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s sons, Alaa Mubarak.

Furthermore, according to the Guardian’s review of the data, six members of the British House of Lords and three former Conservative MPs had offshore assets, as did the families of at least eight current and former members of the Chinese Politburo.  23 of Mossack Fonseca’s clients were under international sanctions, including supporters of the regimes in North Korea, Iran, and Syria.

The Associated Press reports the Panama Papers leak has already caused a firestorm in Australia, where over 800 wealthy citizens are now under investigation by the Australian Taxation Office, in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission, and Austrac financial intelligence agency.

The Daily Mail observes that some of Mossack Fonseca’s clients appear to be “billionaire husbands” using the firm to “hide their fortunes from the wives they divorce,” including Russian oligarch Dmitri Rybolovlev, aviation tycoon Clive Joy, and late British billionaire Scot Young. In fact, internal emails from employees of the firm have them cracking jokes about how the offshore companies they helped create were used to protect assets “against the unpleasant results of a divorce.”

As just about every story on the Panama Papers concedes, there appears to be nothing illegal about the services Mossack Fonseca performed for its clients.

In a lengthy statement to the Guardian, the firm challenged the accuracy of some stories circulating around the data leak, and noted the leaked documents confirm that the company “routinely denies services to individuals who are compromised,” or who fail to provide the information needed to comply with regulations.

“It is legal and common for companies to establish commercial entities in different jurisdictions for a variety of legitimate reasons, including conducting cross-border mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies, estate planning, personal safety, restructuring and pooling of investment capital from different jurisdictions in neutral legal and tax regimes that does not benefit or disadvantage any one investor,” Mossack Fonseca wrote.

“Our services are regulated on multiple levels, often by overlapping agencies, and we have a strong compliance record,” the firm continued. “In addition, we have always complied with international protocols… to assure as is reasonably possible, that the companies we incorporate are not being used for tax evasion, money laundering, terrorist finance or other illicit purposes.”

The firm also noted it does not manage its clients’ companies, does not take possession of their money, and does not “have anything to do with any of the direct financial aspects related to operating their businesses.”

Mossack Fonseca took strong exception to the idea that “the primary function of the services we provide is to facilitate tax avoidance and/or evasion,” and said it was not responsible for the potential “misuse of companies that we incorporate, or the services we provide.”  The firm insisted it would never willingly help individuals associated with rogue regimes to violate international sanctions.

On the other hand, the firm charged that the Guardian was given “unauthorized access to proprietary documents and information taken from our company and have presented and interpreted them out of context,” and reminded the paper that “using information/documentation unlawfully obtained is a crime,” for which they would not hesitate to press charges.

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The Very Nasty Truth About the Panama Papers

Source: http://www.veteranstoday.com/2016/04/04/the-very-nasty-truth-about-the-panama-papers/

Given to the Mossad…to seed, fabricate and censor…just like Wikileaks

lido_1300

…by  Gordon Duff, Senior Editor

[ Editor’s note:  Last week when VT published information gotten during the interrogation of a Turkish intelligence agent, Sawash Yeldiz, captured by Popular Party of Kurdistan (PPK) militia inside Syria, information tying Turkish President Erdogan to the Brussels terror attacks, we saw how real leaks are dealt with.

The conduit for this information, European Department for Security and Information (DESI) Secretary General Haissam Bou Said, was threatened by Israeli security agents who may have had a part in the Brussels attacks and, moreover, DESI, an EU organization was threatened with sanctions for the leak. This is real investigative journalism… Gordon ]

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The Panama Papers are a scam, real documents turned over to a Mossad run organization that now has dirt on even more people and more power to make a very nasty world an even darker and nastier place.  This is what Wikileaks was and is, as exposed by VT and Zbigniew Brzezinski in December 2010.

The filth of the world will be protected and the innocent, should such things exist, can be targeted in the name of “investigative journalism” as teams seed phony material in and launder out damage to the politicians, names like Netanyahu and Bush, Cheney and Guiliani, Hollande and Blair, Kasich and Snyder, Gingrich and Romney, especially Romney.

The Panama Papers are a leak to a German newspaper of tens of thousands of corporate records from a law firm in Panama that ran much of the world’s money laundering.  When a German newspaper received this dump over a year ago, they turned, unknowingly, to an organization actually run by intelligence agencies, in fact those with the most to risk from the leak itself, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The entire time this trove has been available it should have been in the hands of forensic accountants working for an agency or authority that none of us can name as such an agency simply doesn’t exist.  There is no international authority without an agenda to serve drug cartels and money launderers.

For the last year, lists of owners of thousands of phony corporations used to launder money, have been reviewed by dozens of “journalists.”  The result thus far has been to mention soccer officials, attack Russian president Putin and to smear the reputation of a well known worthless chiseler, Ian Cameron, father of slimeball David Cameron, long a blackmail victim tied to the News of the World “phone hacking scandal.

I am not going to begin to repeat what was found out about David Cameron, but “sick” is an understatement.  From Craig Murray:

Former British Ambassador to Uzbeckistan

“But why focus on Russia? Russian wealth is only a tiny minority of the money hidden away with the aid of Mossack Fonseca. In fact, it soon becomes obvious that the selective reporting is going to stink.

The Suddeutsche Zeitung, which received the leak, gives a detailed explanation of the methodology the corporate media used to search the files. The main search they have done is for names associated with breaking UN sanctions regimes. The Guardian reports this too and helpfully lists those countries as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Russia and Syria.

The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”

What do you expect? The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include

Ford Foundation
Carnegie Endowment
Rockefeller Family Fund
W K Kellogg Foundation
Open Society Foundation (Soros)

among many others. Do not expect a genuine expose of western capitalism. The dirty secrets of western corporations will remain unpublished.

Expect hits at Russia, Iran and Syria and some tiny “balancing” western country like Iceland. A superannuated UK peer or two will be sacrificed – someone already with dementia.”

Like Britain’s pedophile scandals, this one will lead the same way, the very old or targeted folks who got “out of line” will be thrown to the wolves.  The Mossad loves this dump, it gives them dirt on thousands of political leaders around the world they can now control even better.

As a real investigative journalist, with real sources in government, with first person sources watching drugs being smuggled out of Afghanistan, biological and chemical weapons out of Georgia or who has, with the team at VT, broken more stories in the past decade than all other publications combined, I know something about these things.

I also worked in banking as senior officer of an offshore banking operation and as a UN representative working with currency and “development” issues.  I saw it all first hand and know the mechanics very well.  I could teach this and probably should.

We know who the biggest players are in the Panama Papers.  The real list doesn’t start with David Cameron’s dad or a FIFA (soccer) official.  Bain Capital and Mitt Romney, followed by the Walton family of Walmart fame, the Canadian Bronfmans, Sheldon Adelson and, perhaps most newsworthy of all, several thousand corporations that tie the world’s drug cartels to American political leaders, including members of congress, state governors, city mayors, members of the US Supreme Court and a handful of former presidents.  Craig Murray goes further in his analysis:

media_the_guardian_1

“The corporate media – the Guardian and BBC in the UK – have exclusive access to the database which you and I cannot see.

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. Never forget the Guardian smashed its copies of the Snowden files on the instruction of MI6.

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? What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on every donor to the Center for Public Integrity and their companies?

What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on every listed company in the western stock exchanges, and on every western millionaire they could trace?

That would be much more interesting. I know Russia and China are corrupt, you don’t have to tell me that. What if you look at things that we might, here in the west, be able to rise up and do something about?

And what if you corporate lapdogs let the people see the actual data?”

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Surveillance photo from Miexican Intelligence of Romney and mistress, Yuri Andropov's daughter

Back in 2012, two months prior to the presidential election, a former senior FBI official, actively employed by the FBI, came to us.  He had a story to tell.  He said that Mitt Romney, working with a series of financial organizations in the US including banks owned by the Walton family, maintained accounts overseas for hundreds of American political leaders.

The story of these accounts, not whose name was on them, but confirming they existed, hit the newspapers only a few short days before, citing Romney as having thousands of secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.

We were told of how Romney and Carlos Salinas, former president of Mexico, met at Harvard Business School, and together built an empire out of the drug cartels that, through buying 5 US Supreme Court Justices who passed “Citizens United,” legalized drug cartel bribery, done through corporations set up by a law firm in Panama with offices around the world.

The FBI had audio and video tapes of Romney with Maria Perez, his mistress in Cuba, daughter of former KGB chief Yuri Andropov and his Cuban mistress.  The tapes told of drug running and money laundering and more, so much more.

The source of the tapes was Mexican intelligence that had been after Salinas for years and had worked with our FBI source who had been the liaison between the US and Mexico on drug investigations through the 1990s. Of course we have all of these interviews recorded, some of them on YouTube.

The Pentagon missing trillions investigation died with the entire DC Able Danger team called in for an emergency meeting that day

The biggest single set of interlocking corporations that should have been exposed are tied to the nearly 3 trillion dollars missing from the US Department of Defense, money “disappeared” when the investigative records were mysteriously the victim of an aircraft accident on 9/11/2001 at the Pentagon, one of the most defended buildings on earth.

Not only were all the records destroyed but the 35 investigators were killed as well, having been asked to gather for a meeting with a White House official who never showed up.  But that’s another story.

What we are saying is this, when former crimes were erased there was a reason.  Bigger crimes were planned. Nearly every defense and intelligence contractor, from “Google Idea Groups” to the Blackwater network and hundreds more, were all tied to interlocking Panamanian corporations with ownership by members of congress, key Federal judges, and all of this run through a legal advocacy group known as the Federalist Society.

The Panama Papers could eventually expose certainly who is really behind 9/11.  In 2014, we were given documents out of Russia that included a preliminary report on 9/11 by the US Department of Energy, outlining that event as “nuclear” and not as the result of terrorism, not as it is typically defined.  The term “false flag terrorism” would apply, however.

Germany Inside Europe: Rooting out the corruption exposed in the Panama papers

Source: http://www.dw.com/en/inside-europe-rooting-out-the-corruption-exposed-in-the-panama-papers/av-19171850

 

The Panama Papers revealed the hidden offshore assets of around 140 of the world’s elite. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for greater transparency. The Berlin-based anti-corruption NGO Transparency International is campaigning for governments around the world to cooperate in setting up a global public registry of company ownership. Mike Mühlberger went to meet them to find out more.

http://www.dw.com/embed/320/av-19171850
Listen to audio 04:17 –Date 07.04.2016

More in the Media Center

Inside Europe: Pirate Party reacts to Panama Papers in Iceland 07.04.2016

Inside Europe, produced 07.04.16 07.04.2016

Read also

Panama papers: Scandal or just hot air? 07.04.2016

While the revelations in the “Panama Papers” are being reviewed by several state prosecutors, critics of the leak say that it’s a media storm without much real substance.

Icelandic PM Gunnlaugsson resigns in wake of ‘Panama Papers’ scandal 05.04.2016

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson has offered his resignation after initially resisting pressure to step down. The prime minister was among those caught up in a worldwide scandal following the release of the “Panama Papers.”

Tax investigations launched over ‘Panama Papers’ revelations 04.04.2016

Naming politicians, sports stars and others using offshore tax havens in the ‘Panama Papers’ leak of documents has offered an unprecedented look into how the elite conceal money. Tax authorities have started to react.

Russia’s Putin calls Panama Papers a western media disinformation campaign 07.04.2016

In his first comments on the document leaks, Putin has denied any involvement in corruption. Although not directly mentioned in the documents, media outlets have sought to implicate Putin through his associates.

Panama Papers leak focuses attention on Dutch shell firms

Source: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2016/04/88080-2/

April 4, 2016
Letterboxes

The leak of millions of documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca has again focused attention on the Netherlands as a tax haven, Dutch media say on Monday. According to the Volkskrant, the papers, which reveal the tax evasion strategies used by politicians, sports stars and businessmen, show that Dutch shell companies are being used to make payments on the basis of fake contracts. Oxfam Novib tax expert Francis Weyzig told the paper the Netherlands has played a ‘questionable role in shifting money’. GroenLinks MP Rik Grashoff has called for a parliamentary debate on the revelations. ‘These show how important it is that the ownership of shell companies is public and that we should eventually start tackling the perverse practice of tax evasion,’ he said. The documents were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). ‘The leak exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies,’ the ICIJ said on Sunday. ‘The files contain new details about major scandals ranging from England’s most infamous gold heist, an unfolding political money laundering affair in Brazil and bribery allegations convulsing Fifa.’ In the Netherlands, Trouw and the Financieele Dagblad have been involved in the Panama Paper research. They are expected to publish more about the Dutch links later this week. Fifa So far the Dutch investigators have revealed that two Dutch shell companies are mentioned in the papers. These appear to have had a role in payments made to sports marketing companies in Latin America in the Fifa scandal. A number of wealthy Dutch nationals are also said to have used the constructions to avoid tax but have not yet been named. The Daily Mail also quotes an email from the company’s Luxemburg branch about a Dutch man wishing to hide assets from his Dutch wife during a divorce case. The note, addressed to someone named Ramses, says the client needed to ‘protect’ his assets ‘against the unpleasant results of a divorce (on the horizon!)’ Mossack Fonseca Nederland BV was written out of the Dutch chamber of commerce on March 31, 2016. The company had been based in The Hague.

Read more at DutchNews.nl: Panama Papers leak focuses attention on Dutch shell firms http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2016/04/88080-2/

Panama Papers reveal sickening connections between political power and money

Source: http://www.ncronline.org/blogs/just-catholic/panama-papers-reveal-sickening-connections-between-political-power-and-money

 

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  • The skyline of Panama City is seen in the distance as boy jumps into the sea in a January 2011 file photo. (CNS/Juan Carlos Ulate, Reuters)
About a quarter of Panama’s four million souls live below the poverty line, plagued by diarrhea and malnutrition. Meanwhile, a giant Panamanian law firm manages the world’s largest tax evasion business and money laundry for the rich.Think about it as you prepare your taxes this season and as the world learns how the rich and powerful have been hiding money during the past 40 years.

Recent Panama Papers revelations already cost the prime minister of Iceland his job — the papers revealed some apparent funny business regarding failed Icelandic banks. Only time will tell whether other world leaders will fall over their off-shore shell companies and hidden assets.

When the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and one hundred other news organizations began mining the 11.5 million leaked records of the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, they had to know they were on to something big. Rather, we might say something huge. The database trove was about 2.6 terabytes deep, enough to fill nearly 3,000 CDs. More than 370 journalists from 76 countries reviewed documents. They found a lot.

The files list more than 15,000 shell companies controlled by world leaders and others, including the suddenly ex-prime minister of Iceland, the prime minister of Pakistan, and the King of Saudi Arabia. The presidents of China and Ukraine are in the electronic hot seat as well. Tentacles of corruption reach out equally to Russian President Vladimir Putin and approximately 140 politicians and public officials worldwide.

The team of journalists counted 214,488 offshore “entities” — bank accounts, companies, other vehicles of ownership — hiding billions of dollars of assets, mostly in big banks in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Monaco and the Channel Islands. They found 14,153 owners worldwide.

It is about money and power, but it is always about money.

The connections between political power and money are sickening. Politicians around the globe tout their care for the poor, their interest in free education and health care, their deep interest in better, cleaner, safer cities and rural areas now devastated by poverty. They wring their hands and shout their speeches, claiming this or another solution to the disease and death that stalk the poor.

Meanwhile, they feast their bank accounts on legal schemes that avoid their paying taxes to support the public trust. Bluntly, what they say and what they do collide in noisy contradiction. Taxes must help the poor, they chant. So long as it’s not their taxes, they think.

Such is the peek into the first-class cabin, where wine and whiskey flow, and filet mignon comes medium rare. Would you like some Béarnaise sauce on that, sir? Yes, we use Champagne vinegar.

I hate to say it, but Donald Trump has a point. Legal means of avoiding taxes are ruining not only the U.S. economy, but the world economic system as well. Powerful political leaders already know that. The big players in the Panama Papers seem to be in China and Russia, although several countries seem to have at least one tax-dodging Mossack Fonseca client. And all countries have individuals with deep pockets who support their politicians.

Oh, the super rich pay taxes, certainly enough to keep mid-level bureaucrats off their backs. But it is the members of the aching middle class in every economy who fill out tax forms year after year and who truly support their governments and government entitlements. The perilously poor contribute taxes here and there when they buy gasoline or other needed goods and services. They may or may not have access to government entitlements, depending on the shoals and narrows of bureaucracy they must navigate to get help.

There is something deeply wrong with what has been going on in Panama, where half the rural poor suffer painful poverty, in metaphorical sight of billions of dollars and Euros and rubles flowing through their land. There is something deeply wrong all over.

[Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. She will speak May 6, 2016, at the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto and Sept. 24, 2016, at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. Her books include Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future and In the Image of Christ: Essays on Being Catholic and Female.]

Editor’s note: We can send you an email alert every time Phyllis Zagano’s column, Just Catholic, is posted. Go to this page and follow directions: Email alert sign-up.

US Intelligence’s attempt to smear Putin in ‘Panama Papers’ backfires on Clinton, Cameron

Source: http://www.sott.net/article/315896-US-Intelligences-attempt-to-smear-Putin-in-Panama-Papers-backfires-on-Clinton-Cameron

© The Free Thought Project

The Soros-funded framing of the document release aimed to smear Putin, but did more to expose the collusion of Hillary Clinton, David Cameron, and other Western scam artists.

On Sunday, the “Panama Papers” were released to the world, in the single greatest incriminating document leak in world history. The documents, all from a single Panamanian law firm specializing in tax sheltering, Mossack Fonseca, were released to a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The documents were reviewed and maintained by a shadowy network including George Soros and several CIA funded organizations, including the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. Unsurprisingly, headlines relating to this group focused on Russian President Vladimir Putin, a world leader not even named within the Panama Papers.

In recent days, however, as international news agencies and curious civilians scour over the two terabytes of documents, with more to come — thanks to the whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks — attention has turned toward Westerners implicated in the release.

Perhaps the most notable Western leader exposed in the Panama Papers is David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, whose father transitioned their family firm from Panama to Ireland after the leader took office. His father’s company dodged British taxes for over 30 years through the offshore arrangement, but the British Prime Minister insists that neither he nor his wife and children received any benefit from the holding that maintained the Cameron family’s fortune.

British Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn has called for an immediate investigation as to whether Cameron family wealth is still held in other offshore investments to the detriment of the British public. Corbyn denounced Cameron, saying “it’s not a private matter if tax has not been paid, so an investigation must take place.”

Additionally, on Tuesday, Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson offered his resignation after the leak implicated the country’s leader in using offshore shell companies to mask political kickbacks and other forms of corruption.

It was also revealed that some 200 US citizens were also implicated. The list includes Americans who have since been accused or convicted of serious financial crimes, including securities fraud and Ponzi schemes.

Perhaps the most telling Panama Papers revelation of the past 24 hours came not from the documents themselves, but from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s private email server. In a series of emails revealed yesterday, in 2011 then-Secretary of State Clinton pushed the Panama Free Trade Agreement, despite warnings from watchdog groups that the agreement would exacerbate the growth of tax havens and increase money laundering activity.

That trade deal, opposed by her Democratic presidential opponent Bernie Sanders, was actively lobbied for by Clinton’s State Department administration and Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal. Interestingly, the list of implicated leaders reads like a who’s who of Clinton Global Initiative supporters, from the king of Saudi Arabia to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Additionally, the most heavily implicated Western financial institution in the Panama Papers, Deutsche Bank, paid Clinton $485,000 in speaking fees shortly after the trade deal was ratified.

In 2011, Secretary Clinton released a statement lauding the agreement from a non-corruption angle, stating that it “will make it easier for American companies to sell their products” and that the Obama Administration “is constantly working to deepen our economic engagement throughout the world, and these agreements are an example of that commitment.”

On Tuesday, candidate Sanders blasted Clinton, saying that she “helped push the Panama Free Trade Agreement through Congress as Secretary of State and the results have been a disaster.”

Comment: Further reading:

Even without a smoking gun, a case can be made this alleged most massive leak ever was obtained by — what else — U.S. intel. This is the kind of stuff the NSA excels at. The NSA is able to break into virtually any database and/or archives everywhere; they steal “secrets”; and then selectively destroy/blackmail/protect assets and “enemies”, according to USG interests.

Pepe Escobar: Panama leaks a ‘limited hangout’ psy-op set up by US intelligence

Panama Papers: How a global media operation held the rich and powerful to account

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-04/lashmar-panama-papers/7296650

 

Posted Mon at 3:53am

Western politicians have huffed and puffed about clamping down on offshore tax havens, but it took investigative reporters exposing the Mossack Fonseca “Panama Papers” to really bring the matter to light, writes Paul Lashmar.

With the Panama Papers exposé perhaps we can now say the fortress walls of offshore secrecy are finally cracking.

Such havens allow corruption and tax avoidance to take place on a massive international scale by some of the richest and most powerful people on Earth. Meanwhile, the poor get poorer.

Western politicians have huffed and puffed about clamping down on offshore havens but in reality their collective breath would not have knocked over a little piggie’s straw house let alone bastions of vested interest. It is thanks to investigative reporters, whistleblowers and unprecedented international media collaboration that the matter is being forced.

The advocacy group Global Financial Integrity reports that illegal channelling of profits offshore cost developing countries nearly $US6 trillion between 2001 and 2010. As Facebook posters like to remind us, 1 per cent of the world’s population owns half the wealth and they like to hoard it.

But finally things may be changing. We are being treated to the third major offshore data leak in as many years. The first was the Cayman Islands tax leak in 2013 that exposed a huge number of major figures worldwide as holding accounts in the tiny island – a British dependency – in secrecy.

Then there was the great HSBC leak which revealed that the company’s Swiss private bank had helped wealthy account holders from other nations to dodge huge sums of due tax. Now it is the turn of Panama – an excellent place to park large sums of money.

The Panama investigation has again featured a network of like-minded journalists in a range of countries. The network has been built up over a series of multinational collaborations. Among the organisations involved are The Guardian and BBC TV’s Panorama programme, which have a longstanding relationship with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which is at the heart of this operation. The material is reported to have been leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm.

As the cracks appear in the once invincible wall of tax haven secrecy, it must be dawning on the rich and powerful that their privacy is no longer guaranteed. The opening reports of the Panama Papers focus on a $US2 billion trail to Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia. But we can expect coming days to bring revelations about many more people. The last thing the rich and powerful who have offshore bank accounts want is publicity about them. Their questions must be “where next” and “which havens remain safe”.

Secret banking paradise

What is important about Panama’s financial services industry? If you tap “Panama offshore” into Google you get a long list of adverts offering to set up a Panama offshore (secret) bank account for you.

For those wanting to establish a really secret tax avoidance scheme it is not good enough just to pick one offshore tax haven – say the British Virgin Islands or the Cayman Islands. You need a series of interlocking offshore accounts in different jurisdictions to guarantee anonymity. British Virgin Islands is good for setting up companies and the Caymans provides extremely discreet bank accounts. Meanwhile Panama is tax exempt and stonewalls requests for company information from investigators in the rest of the world.

Offshore companies incorporated in Panama – and the owners of the companies – are exempt from any corporate taxes, withholding taxes, income tax, capital gains tax, local taxes, and estate or inheritance taxes, including gift taxes.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

Video: Explainer: Panama Papers (ABC News)

Panama has more than 350,000 secretive International Business Companies (IBCs) registered: the third largest number in the world after Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands. Alongside incorporation of IBCs, Panamanian financial services are proactive in forming tax-avoiding foundations and trusts, insurance, and boat and shipping registration. Violation of financial secrecy is punishable by prison.

Panama ranks at 13th position on the 2015 Financial Secrecy Index. But it remains a jurisdiction of particular concern. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Pascal Saint Amans summed up the problem recently: “From the standpoint of reputation, Panama is still the only place where people still believe they can hide their money.”

The Tax Justice Network says that “until now Panama has been fairly indifferent to reputational issues, but the increased attention that Panama receives will inevitably raise concerns among the punters that Panama is no longer able to effectively protect the identity of the crooks and scammers attracted by its dodgy laws and equally dodgy law firms”.

TJN says Panama has long been the recipient of drugs money from Latin America, plus ample other sources of dirty money from the US and elsewhere – it is one of the oldest and best known tax havens in the Americas. In recent years it has adopted a hard-line position as a jurisdiction that refuses to cooperate with international transparency initiatives.

In Jeffrey Robinson’s 2003 examination of tax havens: The Sink: Terror, Crime and Dirty Money in the Offshore World, a US Customs official is quoted as saying:

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. The Free Trade Zone is the black hole through which Panama has become one of the filthiest money laundering sinks in the world.

The investigators

The emergence of a multinational network of journalists prepared to take on these secret havens has at its heart the investigative journalist Gerald Ryle, who spent 26 years working as a reporter and editor in Australia and Ireland, including many years at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

Video: Journalists arrive at Mossack Fonseca headquarters (ABC News)

A quietly spoken man, he uncovered some of the biggest stories in Australian journalism, winning four prestigious Walkley Awards, Australia’s highest awards for journalism.

While working for the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, Ryle was told by a source he would receive an significant package which could be the biggest story of his career.

I still remember the day it arrived, there was just the office manager there, I just hugged her and thanked her and walked back to my office. I pulled the package open and there was a hard drive inside.

At first he did not know what it all meant but it became clear that it was an enormous cache of details of confidential emails, documents and files from the offshore world. From what could be made of the scattered and vastly disorganised material, Ryle later recalled his thoughts.

I know it is a potential goldmine but I don’t actually know what I’m looking at, I’m not sure how valuable it is.

Ryle knew it was information from the secretive offshore world, was authentic and that the next step was to organise extracting the data in some kind of meaningful format. A chance to have access to the resources needed for this type of operation became available when Ryle was offered a job heading the International Consortium of Investigative journalists (ICIJ) in Washington DC.

Founded in 1997, ICIJ was launched as a project of the Centre for Public Integrity to extend the centre’s style of watchdog journalism, focusing on issues that do not stop at national frontiers: cross-border crime, corruption, and the accountability of power.

Teamwork

With the consortium’s resources available to him, Ryle started to organise an international effort to structure the information so that journalists worldwide could analyse and find big names and stories from the data on a safe and secure platform in an efficient and ordered way.

Within 24 hours of publication of details of Cayman Island tax havens in April 2013, the Guardian was filled with stories from a collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative journalists (ICIJ). The tie-up also included the BBC in the UK, Le Monde in France, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Norddeutscher Rundfunk in Germany, The Washington Post, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and dozens of other international media partners.

According to the ICIJ, 86 journalists from 46 countries used both hi-tech data crunching and traditional reporting to sift through emails and account ledgers covering nearly 30 years. One of the biggest hits for the ICIJ was on Azerbijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, after he and members of his family were revealed as shareholders in at least four offshore companies. It is against Azerbaijani law to be involved in business while in power. By September 2013, journalists from 190 countries had produced stories from the database about prominent citizens who had hidden offshore accounts.

HSBC leak

Then in February 2015 a team of journalists from 45 countries opened to public scrutiny secret bank accounts maintained for criminals, traffickers, tax dodgers, politicians and celebrities. Secret documents in the data batch revealed that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers, the ICIJ reported. The leaked files, based on the inner workings of a Swiss private banking arm of HSBC, related to accounts holding more than $100 billion. They provided a rare glimpse inside the super-secret Swiss banking system.

The documents, obtained by the ICIJ via the French newspaper Le Monde, showed the private banking arm had dealt with clients who were engaged in illegal behaviour.

In February 2015, after being informed of the full extent of the reporting team’s findings, HSBC gave a conciliatory response, telling ICIJ: “We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC’s Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today.”

Later that year ICIJ was given access to the largest data haul so far – some 11 million documents covering accounts held by the rich across the globe. The follow-up stories are now breaking now and will fill news bulletins for months – maybe years. It is proof – if any were needed – of the need for investigative journalists to hold the powerful to account.

You can watch “The Secrets of the Super Rich” on Four Corners on ABC TV at 8.30pm tonight.

This article was first published on The Conversation. Read the original.

Paul Lashmar is a senior lecturer in journalism at Sussex University.