Samir’s Selection 04/07/2016 (p.m.)
A torrential leak | The Economist >>>
In his seminal book on tax havens, “Treasure Islands”, Nicholas Shaxson describes offshore finance as “a project of elites against their, and our, societies”…
The spotlight has also been thrust back on Britain’s overseas territories, which are important cogs in the offshore engine. Of the more than 200,000 firms mentioned in the files, half are domiciled in the BVI. “Panama and the BVI go together like Bonnie and Clyde,” says an offshore lawyer—though he also points out that some of the most watertight corporate secrecy can be found onshore. Shell companies set up in Delaware and Nevada have been linked to frauds and corruption scandals.
The BVI link will add to pressure on Britain’s government to persuade its dependencies (which enjoy financial autonomy) to introduce public registers of corporate ownership, as Britain itself will do later this year. A poll carried out just before the Panama story broke found that 77% of Britons believe David Cameron, their prime minister, has a “moral responsibility” to ensure that Britain’s offshore satellites are “as transparent as possible”. Mr Cameron is feeling the heat directly: he has been forced to clarify his links to an offshore fund set up by his late father, details of which appear in the files…
The affair is also a triumph for a new model of investigative reporting. The ICIJ enlisted some 400 journalists to help it sift the data dump, which they did using a bespoke search engine…
many eyes meant less was missed. And distributed journalism of this kind is almost impossible to censor or stop.
There is much in the 2.6 terabytes of data that is yet to be noticed or revealed. The ICIJ has been drip-feeding stories daily after publishing the initial batch. More revelations were expected after The Economist went to press. And there is plenty more beyond Mossack that might be leaked: the firm has only 5-10% of the global market for shell companies. No wonder that, as one adviser to the wealthy puts it, “We’re now telling clients they have to assume anything they do offshore will become public, and they’ll have to be able to justify it when it does.”
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