Contributed by Joe Montero
The attest trove of leaked documents to go public have become known as the Pandora Papers. Those that have been released implicate 35 current and former world leaders, and the list includes about 400 Australians.
Twelve million confidential files had fallen into the hands of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). But only a small portion has been released to selected media outlets, including the Washington Post, in the United States and the Guardian and the BBC in the United Kingdom.
The cache is even bigger than the 2016 Panama Papers released by WikiLeaks.
Revelations published focus on easy targets in the developing world and geopolitical rivals of the two nations where they have been published.
A massive 29,000 individuals in more 90 countries and territories have benefited, according to the ICIJ. More than 330 politicians and high level public officials are implicated. Add 130 billionaires, bankers, big political donors, arms dealers, heads of spy organisations, crime gangs, and more. The files detailed tax dodging by the wealthy and powerful of all countries.
It is inconceivable that the Pandora papers in their entirety could outline a different reality.
Both releases detail the global operation of a vast system of using tax free havens to launder money and avoid paying tax. They also bring into the open the elaborate corporate structures set up for the purpose and to cover it all in a cloak of secrecy.
Despite the element of whitewashing, it is clear the big winners are the banks, making a killing for enabling the transfer of massive amounts of their clients’ and their own money. The Panama showed this five years ago, and many thought that this would surely lead governments to make significant changes. Nothing happened, and business has continued as usual.
The fourteen “service providers” (code for the banks) operate in a range of places for more than 30,000 companies. It penetrates every part of the global and national economies.
In addition to the usual list of tax haven locations, there are South Dakota and Nevada in the United States, both of which have new laws that enable banks to set these places as bases for a bigger slice of the action. We know that the ultra-wealthy Americans are involved and that the United States is emerging as a key global centre for money laundering and tax evasion.
Part of the problem is that this is legal in most countries. It shouldn’t be. Governments are denied legitimate tax revenues needed to provide services for their populations, and the poorer the country, the more harshly it is affected. The use of tax havens also takes from the majority in the richer countries.
This brings us back to Australia. We have a right to know who the 400 among the wealthy and powerful in business and politics are involved. Even more importantly, Australians have good reason to demand that something be done to put a stop to it.