Another mass leak of a law firm’s private information has occurred. And just like the Panama Papers the details are eye watering and show there are two classes of people on this planet, the uber rich and the rest of us.
From the Guardian:
The world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport who have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens are being revealed this week in a major new investigation into Britain’s offshore empires.
The details come from a leak of 13.4m files that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive – and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth.
The material, which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times.
The project has been called the Paradise Papers. It reveals:
Millions of pounds from the Queen’s private estate has been invested in a Cayman Islands fund – and some of her money went to a retailer accused of exploiting poor families and vulnerable people.
The tax-avoiding Cayman Islands trust managed by the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s chief moneyman.
A previously unknown $450m offshore trust that has sheltered the wealth of Lord Ashcroft.
Aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations, including Nike and Apple.
How some of the biggest names in the film and TV industries protect their wealth with an array of offshore schemes.
The billions in tax refunds by the Isle of Man and Malta to the owners of private jets and luxury yachts.
The secret loan and alliance used by the London-listed multinational Glencorein its efforts to secure lucrative mining rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The complex offshore webs used by two Russian billionaires to buy stakes in Arsenal and Everton football clubs.
The video of Panorama trying to interview Lord Ashcroft would be very funny if the whole situation was not so sad. Why do the really wealthy refuse to contribute to the collective good? After all they have more than enough to spare.
Lord Ashcroft will be well known to Standard readers. He seemed to have a rather cosy relationship with John Key. In this most networked of worlds it is not surprising that people who want to trash the state in the United Kingdom so they and their friends can have even more wealth are friendly with and supportive of people who want to trash the state in New Zealand so they and their friends can have even more wealth.
He was a peer of the House of Lords but was a foreigner in terms of his tax status. This meant that he only paid tax on UK earnings. How patriotic.
Another controversial entity mentioned in the Papers is Serco. But it appears that even law firms setting up structures to rob Sovereign Nations of tax have standards. Again from the Guardian:
Serco first approached Appleby through a London law firm on 1 September 2015, asking for help to “establish a subsidiary in Mauritius to acquire 49% of a company in Abu Dhabi”.
It would later use the Mauritius company solely to facilitate part of a major sale of its business interests in the Middle East and India.
Serco has flatly denied that the structure was used to help it avoid tax, and the Guardian is not suggesting the company acted unlawfully in any way.
The request prompted a flurry of activity within the Appleby compliance arm. The team began running its standard checks on the risks Serco could pose as a client.
The results were less than convincing. Appleby’s compliance team found what they described as a “history of blunders and controversies surrounding many of its contracts”, including through its involvement in Obamacare and the running of prisons in Australia and New Zealand.
“It has a history of problems, failures, fatal errors and overcharging,” a senior Appleby compliance officer wrote.
And Bernie Sanders has warned that the world is rapidly becoming an international oligarchy which is controlled by a tiny number of billionaires.
I suspect that the shock and horror from this release will be more subdued from that caused by the Panama Papers. Not because the sense of disgust was overplayed last time, but because this is become an increasingly apparent reality.
So what should progressives do? We are up against some of the cleverest and most well resourced people on the planet. But if we want sovereign nations to have a future then we have to sort this out.
And what is important? Brave policies enacted by a progressive Government.
Tax reform is complex and the wealthy will throw everything they have at it in the hope of stopping or watering it down. But the proposed tax review this Government will be setting up has just become even more important.