Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mossack Fonseca – The Panama Papers



Mossack Fonseca is a Panamanian law firm specializing in setting up corporate structures within corporate structures to insure maximum protection from snooping eyes, journalists and governments alike. German-born Jurgen Mossack and Panamanian-born Ramon Fonseca Mora (pictured above) founded the practice decades ago. The law firm has operated for almost four decades without much scrutiny and, according to a spokesman from that law firm, never accused of any impropriety. That situation has changed… dramatically. Somehow, a data-dump of a download from that firm’s most private computer servers wound up being provided to a German periodical, which spread the word from there.
“The 11.5m documents were obtained by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)… The ICIJ then worked with journalists from 107 media organisations in 76 countries, including UK newspaper the Guardian, to analyse the documents over a year… The BBC does not know the identity of the source.” BBC.com, April 4th.
Why does it matter? The allegations tell us that this legal operation has been a backbone of obfuscation and misdirection, allowing international miscreants to avoid international sanctions directed personally at them, and criminals, tax-avoiding billionaires and corrupt officials to launder money, hide assets and avoid their local taxing authorities. The structures were a highly effective path to circumvent treaties, statutes, and international enforcement administrations, not to mention so many rather focused government regulations and inquiries targeting Mossack Fonseca’s very clientele and their ilk.
“The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reports that the files reveal that the offshore companies include ‘at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the U.S. government because of evidence that they'd been involved in wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.’” AOL.com, April 4th.
The list of “legitimate” folks whose names surfaced includes senior players from the rather disgraced soccer body, FIFA, and more than a few people in or around some of the most powerful government leaders and business magnates on earth, including more than a few here in the United States.
In one case, the company offered an American millionaire fake ownership records to hide money from the authorities. This is in direct breach of international regulations designed to stop money laundering and tax evasion…
There are links to 12 current or former heads of state in the data, including dictators accused of looting their own countries.
More than 60 relatives and associates of heads of state and other politicians are also implicated.
The files also reveal a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring involving close associates of Russia's President, Vladimir Putin.
Also mentioned are the brother-in-law of China's President Xi Jinping; Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko; Argentina President Mauricio Macri; the late father of UK Prime Minister David Cameron and three of the four children of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The documents show that Iceland's Prime Minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, had an undeclared interest linked to his wife's wealth. He is now facing calls for his resignation.
Part of the documents suggest that a key member of Fifa's ethics committee, Uruguayan lawyer Juan Pedro Damiani, and his firm provided legal assistance for at least seven offshore companies linked to a former Fifa vice-president arrested last May as part of the US inquiry into football corruption. BBC.com.
We’ve missed the level of international focus on this rather astounding set of revelations, because of the press’ obvious obsession with our election process. But the implications for standing governments, important government leaders and millionaires all over the earth are devastating, likely to result in myriad firings, resignations, prosecutions for some time to come. The information is so vast that it will take over a year to digest and analyze. The Prime Minister of Iceland has already announced his resignation based what these Panama papers have disclosed. Investigative authorities the world over have begun pouring over these documents, and you can bet there will be lots of prosecutions, resignations and financial failures based on these efforts.
“It is the biggest leak in history, dwarfing the size of those released by the Wikileaks organisation. In all, the details of 214,000 entities, including companies, trusts and foundations, were leaked…The information in the documents dates back to 1977, and goes up to December last year. Emails make up the largest type of document leaked, but images of contracts and passports were also released.” BBC.com.
And when it comes to the rich, those one-percenters, it seems that tax dodging is simply a way of life: “Economist Gabriel Zucman at the University of California, Berkeley, has estimated that ‘roughly 8% of the global financial wealth of households is held in tax havens, about $7.6 trillion.’ Other credible studies put the number much higher — up to $32 trillion. Most of Mossack Fonseca's shell companies involved providing that service to people…. In other words, the firm is just a cog in a global machine that's been designed to ensure the global 1% that it can keep as much of its wealth as possible.” AOL.com. Not that there aren’t enough loopholes in our own tax code for the wealthy. The rest of us just pay taxes.
When the dust settles, there may be some major changes in who will be the remaining power brokers around the world. While populist dictators like Vladimir Putin can scoff at the results, most criminal kingpins and tainted officials won’t get off so lightly. This is a much bigger story than most Americans can imagine. Stay tuned.
I’m Peter Dekom, and this is actually the biggest corruption scandals ever to surface.

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