The ‘Panama Papers’ have opened a window into the world of tax avoidance


On maps they appear no bigger than a full stop, but each year billions of dollars in capital sail into the global banking system along the warm currents of the Caribbean.

Economists are charting an unrelenting, escalating transfer of wealth, enabled by the offshore system, often from the very poorest to the very richest nations.

The money is sometimes spent in obvious ways – funding super-yachts, private jets, fine art auctions and, of course, property. But there is the unseen damage. It harms the ecology of vibrant cities by making them unaffordable to ordinary people.

The cash is also a shot in the arm to the financial system. Lawfully injected into London hedge funds and Wall Street trading rooms, it funds high-stakes investments and, in the good years, big bonus pools.

The movement of this offshore money is an industry made possible in part by the secrecy on sale in tax havens, led by the UK’s substantial network of offshore enclaves. The Panama Papers lift the veil on how this world works – and the people who use it.

While much of the leaked material will remain private, there are compelling reasons for publishing some of the data. The documents reveal a huge breadth of unseen activity.

Since the 2008 crash, there has been a clamour for everyone to pay a fair share of the tax burden.

Unsurprisingly, the public is questioning – perhaps more than ever – whether a system that provides advantages only to the wealthy is immoral. And the political climate that once tolerated this inequality has changed decisively.

In the files we have found evidence of Russian banks providing slush funds for President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle; assets belonging to 12 country leaders, including the leaders of Iceland, Pakistan and Ukraine; companies connected to more than 140 senior politicians, their friends and relatives, and to some 22 people subject to sanctions for supporting regimes in North Korea, Syria, Russia and Zimbabwe; the proceeds of crimes, including Britain’s infamous Brink’s-Mat gold robbery; and enough art hidden in private collections to fill a public gallery.

Behaviour revealed in the Panama Papers highlights the failures of regulatory regimes that were either oblivious to, or unwilling to act against, Mossack Fonseca, the law firm from whose database the documents have been leaked.

Source: A world of hidden wealth: why we are shining a light offshore | News | The Guardian

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12 thoughts on “The ‘Panama Papers’ have opened a window into the world of tax avoidance

  1. Robert Jenkins

    I noticed the BBC article on concentrated on two dead dictators (Gaddafi & Hussain) a very nasty man in Syria (Bashir) and his backer (Putin). The other name mentioned was a guy who put the poor innocent bankers in jail in Iceland (Gunnlargsson).

    I am so pleased that The BBC has proved beyond any doubt that none of our good patriotic British MPs and Business men are avoiding Tax. This now shows that The Conservative government are behind ALL working people in this country earning over £500 000 a year. We are all in this together!! The BBC would hide information from the public!

    Either that or 11 million pages of information in 5 people is one hell of a political biography

  2. shawn

    I do not know whether readers will remember these two well hidden British political links into Panama’s tax haven status. The first is that. if my memory serves me right, Rupert Murdock is one of those who sponsored Panama’s status as an international tax haven. Secondly, in papers relating to the will of Mr Cameron senior show that he ran a service whereby for about £28,000 a time he offered advice on how to take advantage of Panama’s tax haven status. I’ll try and see if I’ve kept digital copies of the source for these comments.

    1. shawn

      I noted in my previous posting on this item, that I’d try to find the long forgotten sources for that posting:
      From a 3 year old article on the Telegraph website
      ‘The Prime Minister’s father, Ian Cameron, profited from a legal network of offshore investment funds based in countries including Panama and Switzerland, it was claimed’.
      ‘He was also a senior director of Blairmore Holdings Inc, registered in Panama City and a shareholder in Blairmore Asset Management, based in Geneva’.
      Blairmore Holdings (the name, is apparently derived from the ancestral Cameron home), sought “sophisticated” investors who wished to legally avoid British tax. The company was established in 1982 when David Cameron was 16.

      ‘His wealth (Cameron senior) much of which was derived from selling tax avoidance schemes via a registered company in Panama’,
      As you will no doubt be aware, neither news sources are bastions of left-wing.

      From the Guardain
      ‘Blairmore in its investment prospectus for 2006 state it is seeking ‘sophisticated’ investors worth at least $100,000 who wished to legally avoid paying British tax.
      It reads: ‘The directors intend that the affairs on the fund should be managed and conducted so that it does not become resident in the United Kingdom for UK taxation purposes.’
      ‘Ian Cameron as a founder member of Blairmore Holdings and states that as an
      adviser he would be paid $20,000 a year.’
      Readers keep in mind that this is only one source of income, he appears to have a director on numerous companies. My statement of £28, 000 was out by a long way (perhaps I should apply for Chancellor Osborne’s job!). As yet I’ve not had time to look for the Rupert Murdock reference, but hope to later.
      Finally, Ian Cameron passed away a few years ago, so be respectful and bare in mind the above data is 3 years old.
      See also

      1. Dez

        Shawn, thanks for the extra info. My thought after seeing the to brief Panorama program was the last person on earth who should be leading the Group charged with flushing out these greedy pigs is the Chief Pig Lodge Master David Camoron. All these so called investigation groups are always tainted with those with vested interests eg Freedom of Information Group. I would very much like to see a few real men or women laypersons represented
        on these Groups to at least let the people have a voice in running this country as sure as anything the MPSs who we electred have failed their electorates in giving them a voice…….. ……

      2. shawn

        Dez, Could not agree more. The issue would then be that these members of the public would have access to almost unimaginable wealth, power and all the other things that goes with those, and so good become as corrupt as those they’re policing.

        On David Cameron’s suitability for being leader/host of an official inquiry, this proves just how powerful these people are. One for getting him appointed to that position and two for having a British Prime minister on the ‘pay roll’ along with most of his immediate family. He may find the role too hot to handle and ‘kick it into the long grass’, until things have gone out of the public mind. If he has to use the logic of ‘Game keeper turned poacher’, the populace will already have won a small victory.

  3. drlauramitchell

    While I do not dispute the figures or the main point being made here, there is a minor inconvenient truth that a sizeable number of low-paid working people around the globe also benefit from this system, indeed it is supposed to support their earnings; merchant seamen. For that population of employees who work in the space between nations, there has always been a compelling argument against them contributing tax, particularly as they see little benefit from their nation-state when in international waters. However, it is true that the majority of those who benefit from the legal loopholes which follow from international maritime law (and its associated implications for finance) are not these seafarers. Nonetheless, Vox Political should not shy away from this small community who are often heavily exploited as an inconvenient truth.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Hang on – merchant seamen benefit from tax havens, but they’re also heavily exploited?
      I think you contradict yourself.

  4. Dez

    I guess it is inevitable, where the power currently lays with the Elite, that weak country tax laws and half hearted tax regimes will be the norm until a concerted effort is made to get these loop holes closed and the rich properly contribute to the good of the whole…..not their greedy selves. Not expecting much from the Cons in improving their tax take from these same individuals or companies as their talk falls well below their actions and delivery…..except when it comes to screwing the little guys and businesses for every penny to help plug the gap from their mates non-taxpayments.

  5. Brian

    Cameron will state,

    ‘We are committed to clamping down on tax avoidance’.

    There will be a parliamentary committee set up, fines will be imposed, and those fines will be stated on company tax returns as expenses and offset against tax payable. If there is one thing that seems incorruptible, it is the system of avarice.

  6. hayfords

    It is worth remembering that the use of tax havens is not necessarily illegal. It depends on the reasons for the use and the source of the money.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Nobody has suggested that it is illegal.
      There are strong implications that the law should be changed.

Comments are closed.