There is much to be learned from the famous “Panama Papers,” both in their content and in the manner of their disclosure. The superficial reading, widely published, is that lots of bad people used a certain Panamanian law firm to help hide their ill-gotten wealth.
Naturally, we presume that everyone with a foreign bank account is at least engaging in criminal tax evasion, and probably stole the money to begin with. The presumed criminals in this case include, not Russian President Putin himself, but his “close associates.”
One theory is that the attempt to smear Mr. Putin was so amateurish that it must have been planned, counterintuitively, by Russian intelligence.
Bank accounts not readily available for confiscation (remember Cyprus) are always in “offshore tax havens,” which has that wonderful Pirates of the Caribbean ring to it. The mere fact of Mitt Romney owning a blind trust in the Caymans was enough to smear him as a tax dodging fat cat. A blind trust, hello! Does anybody on CNN even know what that is?
Here is an editorial in the Wall Street Journal reminding us that, for many of the nationalities featured in los papeles, honest people move their money offshore because their government is corrupt. Simon Black takes this a step further, warning ordinary Americans to take their money offshore.
Last year, the US government stole more money and private property from its citizens through civil asset forfeiture than all the thieves and felons in the country combined.
The legal issue in each case is whether any tax laws were broken. The more interesting issue, especially for public figures, is where they obtained the money in the first place. This may also involve illegal, or at least suspicious, activity.
Oddly, few Western politicians have been implicated. This could be the result of Western media controlling the disclosures, or our own crooks could simply be using a different law firm.
Some have suggested that this firm was targeted specifically because of its client list. It is a referral business, after all. One theory is that the attempt to smear Mr. Putin was so amateurish that it must have been planned, counterintuitively, by Russian intelligence – a “false flag leak,” if you will.
The one indisputable victim here is Panama itself. The EU and the IMF have long wanted to crack down on Panama as a “tax haven,” as they have previously cracked down on Switzerland. Financier George Soros supports global tax regulation, and he also supports the agency that broke the story, the ICIJ.
You know this was the motive because the first thing printed in The Economist was a call for – get this – a global registry of beneficial owners. Do you really think the global tax police will be looking for their own masters’ money? No, no, no, querido. They will be looking for your money.
See also: New World Currency