Monday, April 04, 2016

Think of It as the Ashley-Madison of Privilege, Graft, and Corruption

11.5 million documents, now that's a leak. The Guardian got a copy. So did the BBC. Apparently the original leak was to Suddeutche Zeitung. The Washington-based international consortium of investigative journalists doled the stuff out to some 100-news outlets.

No one seems to know the identity of the whistleblower who, apparently, asked for nothing but anonymity.

The animated conversation between the source and SZ also contains a chilling bit where the source claims that their life is in danger.

According to Vice News, it's likely that some powerful heads will be on the chopping block:

The massive leak — dubbed the "Panama Papers" — includes more than 11.5 million documents and implicates 72 current and former heads of state. The documents were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) 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 wrote in its overview of the leak 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, the body that rules international soccer."

SZ explained that an anonymous source contacted its reporters more than a year ago and provided them with 2.6 terabytes of data from Mossack Fonseca, which sells anonymous offshore companies around the world. "These shell firms enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady," SZ wrote, noting that the Panamanian firm's clients include "criminals and members of various Mafia groups," in addition to government officials and their relatives and close associates.

Vice, as usual, was way ahead of the game on this one, outing the law firm involved, Mossack Fonseca,  back in December, 2014, in an article entitled, 
"The Law Firm That Works with Oligarchs, Money Launderers, and Dictators."

,,,a yearlong investigation reveals that Mossack Fonseca ...has served as the registered agent for front companies tied to an array of notorious gangsters and thieves that, in addition to Makhlouf, includes associates of Muammar Gaddafi and Robert Mugabe, as well as an Israeli billionaire who has plundered one of Africa's poorest countries, and a business oligarch named Lázaro Báez, who, according to US court records and reports by a federal prosecutor in Argentina, allegedly laundered tens of millions of dollars through a network of shell firms, some which Mossack Fonseca had helped register in Las Vegas.

Documents and interviews I've conducted also show that Mossack Fonseca is happy to help clients set up so-called shelf companies—which are the vintage wines of the money-laundering business, hated by law enforcement and beloved by crooks because they are "aged" for years before being sold, so that they appear to be established corporations with solid track records—including in Las Vegas. One international asset manager who talked to Mossack Fonseca about doing business with them told me that the firm offered to sell a 50-year-old shelf company for $100,000.

If shell companies are getaway cars for bank robbers, then Mossack Fonseca may be the world's shadiest car dealership.

So far only big names have come out - Putin, David Cameron's father, the president of Iceland - Gaddafi and Mugabe - but there are Canadian names on the list, among them The Royal Bank that used Mossack Fonseca to set up more than 370 offshore companies for clients. According to TorStar, more than 350-Canadians have been outed in the leaked documents. A co-founder of the Panamanian law firm confirms the documents are accurate and says they were stolen by a hacker. Thanks, hacker. May you live long and prosper.


Lorne said...

To me, Mound, the real story here is what it says about our various governments. The fact that in so many cases the the things being done here are simply an exploitation of existing tax laws tells us a great deal about who our rulers are really concerned about. Hint: it ain't us.

Ben Burd said...

No big deal here Mound, except that we now know what we have supected for years - the rich guys don't like to pay taxes. This money apart from the criminally placed is legally taxed money that has been transferred from Canada, and other places. the trick for the CRA, and the Government is to have policies that will tax worldwide income - the interest on this money. Until this happens only public shaming of this will suffice.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Lorne. Check out my two latests posts. I'm no longer convinced that our governments can be salvaged. Assange, Snowden and now this, the Panama Papers. Now, more than ever, I can't see much hope in reformation. Neoliberalism metastasizes into illiberal democracy and oligarchy that cannot be sustained without a capture and corrupted political apparatus. We're in a struggle that we can't keep losing much longer before we lose it entirely. Trudeau, Ambrose, Mulcair - they're all deep in this.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Ben - I disagree. A lot of this money has never been taxed nor is it intended that it will ever be taxed.

I discuss this in my most recent post-