THE PANAMA PAPERS
So now they’re exposing the plutocrats’ capers
Tax havens headline the Panama Papers.
The critics are angry, the pundits outspoken
But quick comes the answer: No laws have been broken.
Revelations of massive tax evasion have poured forth from over a million documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm identifying their clients.
From the world of satire the most common response was incredulity that all this is news. As the on line magazine, hot air, commented “They discovered that some of the world’s most wealthy individuals have been (hang on to your hats) gaming the system to disguise their wealth and avoid taxes, I know…you’re shocked.” Moreover, “everyone is being very quick and careful to repeatedly point out that…the tax firm in question didn’t to anything illegaI. (Perish the thought.)”.
The Onion weighed in with its report that one billionaire confessed that he had completely forgotten he even had funds stashed in the Seychelles.: “Wow, I haven’t thought about that in years. How much is it again? $30 million? $40 million? Anyway I’m glad they reminded me. Who knows how long that would have slipped my mind?” After which he put in calls to Switzerland, Luxembourg, and other tax havens “to make sure he wasn’t missing any other funds he’d stored away.”
In Paris Charlie Hebdo, was as caustic as ever. In place of religious terrorism it targeted “Terrorism Fiscal” and showed an assemblage of bloated characters holding signs saying “Je Suis Panama” and insisting “They won’t change our way of life.”
Moreover, even without legal sanctions the revelations could be embarrassing to some political leaders. The prime minister of Iceland and Ukraine, elected to clean up previous financial scandals, were on the new list and resigned under pressure. No such danger, of course, threatened Russia’s Putin and China’s Xi, though friends or family members were among the published names. And British Prime Minister David Cameron was profoundly embarrassed when his name was among those leaked. Though his investments in question were puny compared with those of the foreign oligarchs, his hesitant revelations led to his being mocked in a Steve Bell cartoon in the Guardian with Cameron insisting: “Purely private matter, move along now, nothing to see here”, while leaning up against a coffin with a skeleton trying to get out. And Netflix, in a publicity Tweet for its “Houses of Cards” docu-drama, drew an obvious parallel to Cameron’s predicament by citing a signature line of the show’s anti-hero “The road to power is paved with hypocrisy and casualties.”