The Panama Papers led to regime change in Pakistan. What will happen after the Pandora Papers leak?



In the wake of the Panama Papers disclosures five years ago, which sparked regime change in Pakistan and a sense of discontent in much of the world, many entities managing offshore funds and shell companies have come under pressure. from their clients so that they redouble their secrecy. .

The strategy may have paid off in some jurisdictions, but others – from Switzerland, Panama, Dubai and Monaco to the Cayman Islands and Singapore – have been at least partially laid bare by the Pandora Papers in the biggest leak. of this type.

The files were provided to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and hundreds of journalists spent 18 months sifting through the nearly 1.2 crore files.

However, the whole picture is not particularly surprising. Tax evasion or tax evasion via offshore “havens” is hardly new, and obtaining property abroad is routine for those with the means.

How they came in by the tens of millions, or sometimes billions of dollars, needed for such “investments” is another story. Bribes, bribes and “money laundering” tend to be frowned upon, but there is nothing wrong if monumental balances have been accumulated through routine exploitation that supports the capitalist order.

Glaring disparities

We live in a world where large disparities in wealth keep widening, but America’s richest billionaires are not mentioned in Pandora’s revelations, largely because they have no obligations. to conceal their monumental wealth. They are accused from time to time of not paying their fair share of taxes, but they hardly ever have to spit.

It is the bettors with fewer excuses in their arsenal who tend to be named and humiliated. Many of them tend to retaliate by claiming that they haven’t done anything illegal. It’s a self-defense, provided you don’t have an issue with immorality.

But morality and largely unregulated neoliberalism occupy separate universes. This division cannot be overcome in the capitalist context. The leaders of many nations challenged by the Pandora revelations have pledged to investigate the allegations. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is said to have created a cell for this purpose after two ministers were found to be among the hundreds of Pakistanis named in the documents.

But significant consequences rarely flow from such inquiries, which have also been promised by various other heads of state or government. It’s especially embarrassing, however, when so-called anti-corruption crusaders get caught up in such puzzles.

If they are not personally involved in the allegations, as in the case of Imran Khan, they can report righteous intentions. The alternative is vigorous and outraged denials, as witnessed recently by Prague, Nairobi, Amman, Kiev, Moscow and Baku.

Andrej Babis, the Czech Prime Minister and second richest person, who clearly used a complicated offshore structure to buy a mansion in the south of France in 2009, accused anonymous forces of seeking to undermine it ahead of that election. week. A spokesperson for Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky has denied that his boss did anything wrong by secretly transferring an offshore company to a friend shortly before he took office in 2019.

Global reaction

The Kenyan and Azerbaijani presidents have so far been more reluctant to defend themselves, but Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has questioned the veracity of the documentation which names several of the Russian president’s close associates as beneficiaries of potentially shady deals , including Svetlana Krivonogikh, allegedly the mother of Putin’s daughter.

Plausible deniability has always been part of Putin’s playbook when it comes to acquiring untold wealth. But why would King Abdullah of Jordan – whose royal court claimed Western media reports “included inaccuracies and exaggerated the facts” – would he feel compelled to disguise the multi-million dollar house purchase in California and in London ? “Security” was used as an excuse.

In Britain, the focus has been on the profitable sale to the crown estate of property belonging to the notoriously corrupt ruling family of Azerbaijan, as well as the transactions of prominent conservative donors such as Mohamed Amersi. Then there’s the fact that Tony and Cherie Blair bought a £ 6.5million property in London, partly owned by the family of a Bahraini minister, acquiring an offshore company and saving over $ 300. 000 pounds of property taxes.

It’s perfectly legitimate, apparently. Which is obviously part of the problem. Why are front companies – which sometimes have multiple layers of opacity – legal in the first place? There may be acceptable reasons for an offshore account, but these should surely be explained to a regulator.

The Pandora Papers added considerable substance to what we already knew, and whoever disclosed them deserves our gratitude. It would be far too optimistic, however, to see this unlocked Pandora’s Box or any other unlocked Pandora’s Box as the harbinger of significant change.

This article first appeared in Dawn.


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