The Panama Papers appeared in April, promising to be the biggest bombshell dropped on the international community since Nagasaki. Combing through the 11.5 million documents that were (what follows is a euphemism for stolen) leaked by a purported whistleblower to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, an international team of journalists has connected a lot of dots and begun the process of publishing H-bomb exposés of key world leaders and rich people.
And if you were to read them, you’d be pardoned if you nodded off for a moment.
I recommend a nice triple espresso.
The papers were “obtained” from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which has a branch in Miami, among other places worldwide. M-F specializes in setting up shell corporations for people who have lots of cash that they’d like to conceal inside a shell. Obviously, one reason the well-heeled do this is to hide the amount of money they possess from others; another no-brainer is that they seek to avoid paying taxes, and sometimes do so beyond the limits of the law.
You will be shocked to learn that the insanely wealthy Petro Poroshenko, affectionately known as the “Chocolate King” and the current president of Ukraine, is a shady thug. But isn’t Poroshenko “our guy,” the opponent of evil incarnate who goes by the name of Vlad Putin? Isn’t Petro the pro-NATO, pro-E.U., anti-Russia savior of the Ukrainian people who promised to end corruption? Well, yes, but that apparently didn’t stop him from moving a massive amount of assets to the Virgin Islands, with the help of M-F.
But fear not, Russia-haters. Vlad Putin has also been fingered. The Panama Papers do not contain his name, but they do implicate a number of his oligarchical associates, including, as the Los Angeles Times puts it, “one of Putin’s closest friends, Sergei Roldugin, a 64-year-old cellist who has somehow amassed $100 million through three offshore companies that list him as owner.” All in all, the Panama Papers associate $2 billion with the Putin-friendly oligarchs.
The list of clients goes on, and brace yourself, because it’s likely you didn’t know that the world is this corrupt: President Mauricio Macri of Argentina, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s father, FIFA . . .
When Washington imposed sanctions on Syria, limiting that country’s ability to purchase jet fuel, President Bashar al-Assad created a shell company through M-F to buy it anyway. I’m not making this up: He actually wanted to buy jet fuel for his planes.
Cheating on taxes is, of course, immoral. So is lying about the amount of money you possess, especially if you are obligated to disclose your financials because you hold public office. And especially if you are the prime minister of Iceland (Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson), all of the banks fail during the global financial crisis, and you conceal the fact that you own a great amount of shares in those banks (thanks to M-F) as you negotiate settlements with them.
If you are from America, however, you may wonder whether any of this should matter to you, and you will note that our country has had something of a hand in this exposé. This affair is of interest precisely because it is being presented to us as a bombshell revelation, yet we have actually learned nothing of significance. Anyone who knows anything about Vladimir Putin knows of his vast network of oligarchs that extends back into the last days of the Soviet Union. Ukraine’s Chocolate King is like a character from The Godfather, one of the heads of the five families. And who knew that the Saudi and Qatari oil sheiks, not to mention FIFA, are corrupt? Answer: Everyone who’s ever read Taki, and even many of those who haven’t.
What isn’t being called into question by these breathless, pearl-clutching reporters is the corrupting power of internationalism, the global finance system that fosters chess-board foreign policies and makes the “citizens of the world” grist for the International Money Mill.
There is also a disturbing Manichaeism that accompanies this reporting, a fact pointed out by none other than the Chi-com state-run newspaper Global Times, which was obviously out to defend (by changing the subject) the honor of President Xi Jinping, whose brother-in-law is among the clients of the Panamanian law firm. The Red Chinese opine that Western media, led by the United States, have demonized Edward Snowden for his “document dumps” because the contents of those dumps have been embarrassing to Western leaders, particularly those of the United States. The Chinese propagandists then suggest that the West is playing its own propaganda game: “Despite different interests, Western countries are close allies in ideology. This is perhaps the basis for the concept of the ‘West.’ Public opinion of different Western countries is quite uniform.”
That, of course, is a bit of a Marxist exaggeration, but after reading it, it does make one chuckle to see the New York Times rather casually mention that “One reason there may be relatively few Americans named in the documents is that it is fairly easy to form shell companies in the United States. James Henry, an economist and senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network, told Fusion that Americans ‘really don’t need to go to Panama.’”