Panama Papers: a massive document leak reveals a global web of corruption and tax avoidance
Even as the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nations have engaged in increasingly complex and intensive efforts at international cooperation to smooth the wheels of global commerce, they have willfully chosen to allow the wealthiest members of Western society to shield their financial assets from taxation (and in many cases divorce or bankruptcy settlement) by taking advantage of shell companies and tax havens.
If Panama or the Cayman Islands were acting to undermine the integrity of the global pharmaceutical patent system, the United States would stop them. But the political elite of powerful Western nations have not acted to stop relatively puny Caribbean nations from undermining the integrity of the global tax system — largely because Western economic elites don’t want them to.
But even though various criminal money-laundering schemes are the sexiest possible use of shell companies, the day-to-day tax dodging is what really pays the bills. As a manager of offshore bank accounts told me years ago, “People think of banking secrecy as all about terrorists and drug smugglers, but the truth is there are a lot of rich people who don’t want to pay taxes.” And the system persists because there are a lot of politicians in the West who don’t particularly want to make them.
Incorporating your hedge fund in a country with no corporate income tax even though all your fund’s employees and investors live in the United States is perfectly legal. So is, in most cases, setting up a Panamanian shell company to own and manage most of your family’s fortune.
Signalé par Glenn Greenwald: A Key Similarity Between Snowden Leak and Panama Papers: Scandal Is What’s Been Legalized
Proving that certain behavior is “legal” does not prove that it is ethical or just. That’s because corrupted political systems, by definition, often protect and legalize exactly the behavior that is most unjust. Vital journalism does not only expose law breaking. It also highlights how corrupted political and legal systems can be co-opted by the most powerful in order to legally sanction atrocious and destructive behavior that serves their interests, typically with little or no public awareness that it’s been done.