Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Panama Papers - Where Are the Americans?

Former Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson
The fallout from Sunday's release of information contained in a staggering 11.5 million documents obtained from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca by a large group of journalists pooling their resources (known as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) has landed hard in Iceland.

The news that Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson has submitted his resignation heralds the hidden wealth of some pretty high-profile figures (on both sides of the law) around the globe about to be dragged into the uncomfortable light of public scrutiny.

Gunnlaugsson resigned in the wake of a disastrous interview in which members of the press confronted him over revelations that an offshore company controlled by his wealthy wife was never properly disclosed to the Icelandic government as part of assets the couple owns.

The documents contain detailed information on 40 years of offshore banking records for some of the wealthiest and most prominent figures on the planet and at least 12 current and former prime ministers,  and a mix of kings, emirs, athletes and actors and according to news reports, it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Officials in Pakistan and Australia have already called for investigations into individuals and companies from those nations being named in the leak as well. The fallout also landed in Russia - and rather close to President Vladimir Putin too.

Putin pal, wealthy Russian cellist Sergei Roldugan
Given the small circle of Russian billionaire oligarchs that control the country who've all enriched themselves through their close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it's been laughable listening to a spokesman for Putin from Moscow dismissing links to the offshore banking activity to Putin himself.

Especially considering documents from the Panama Papers show that Putin's influence helped enrich his lifelong friend Sergei Roldugan, a cellist who introduced Putin to his wife Lyudmila.

As chance would have it, Roldugan is also the godfather of Putin's oldest daughter Maria, and according to an article in The Guardian, the documents link a complex trail of suspicious loans made by Russian state bank Rossiya (controlled by Putin and his oligarch homies) to an array of large financial stakes in companies that are in Roldugan's name - to the tune of $100 million.

He must be one Hell of a cello player. Putin's spokesman dismissed any suggestions by the media that Putin's ironclad grip on Russia had anything to do with a relatively obscure cellist from St. Petersburg amassing enormous wealth from highly-complex offshore holdings as an example of the media's "Putin-phobia."

A fear that members of the Russian press and political opponents are well acquainted with by now; including Russia Today (RT) founder Mikhail Lesin.

Eton-educated UK Prime Minister David Cameron
There are volumes of information yet to be released, so I'm not going to get too deep on this yet as new revelations are coming out moment by moment.

Including news that British Prime Minister David Cameron's father Ian and a number of conservative members of the British parliament and wealthy conservative political backers have been linked to offshore accounts to avoid the UK taxman.

Now the obvious question is where are all the Americans on the list?

Earlier today on the NPR program On Point, one of the ICIJ journalists responsible for the cooperative  analysis of the Panama Papers reports that the journalists wanted there to be some kind of context to the released information rather than just dumping it all out at once.

He claims that the initial release was centered on world leaders, and that soon information on figures in entertainment and athletics with ties to offshore accounts handled by the Mossack Fonseca law firm will be released publicly.

It is interesting to note that the journalists have already leaked the names of Chinese actor Jackie Chan and Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi who's already been in the spotlight for tax evasion; but no American, French or British actors, entertainers or sports stars?

The journalist said that there are a number of well-known Hollywood producers on the list - no mention of their names? Hmmm.

David and Charles Koch
Given the actions and hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the political system by the consortium of activist, anti-tax crusading Republican and Libertarian billionaires like Charles and David Koch, we know there are U.S. businessmen and controllers of the American corporatocracy whose names are in the Panama Papers.

With the release of the Panama Papers regarding Mossack Fonesca's role in creating hundreds of offshore "paper companies" for the express purpose of helping the wealthiest individuals evade paying their fair of taxes and to conceal their wealth with the aid of shell companies, lawyers and sketchy accounting schemes, a huge hole has been poked in the Republican's political rhetoric on the massive wealth inequality in this nation.

Over the past few years as the growing gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else has become more of a mainstream issue and topic of discussion, Republicans have tended to try and dismiss any kind of rational debate on the topic of wealth inequality as "divisive" or "pitting Americans against each other" - some conservatives even accused Democrats of engaging in a "war on success".

As if trying to talk about why wages for the middle-class and working class have remained stagnant for over 30 years is in itself anti-American.

Obviously the discussion on this topic is just getting started, but if the release of the Panama Papers reveals anything, it's the inner workings of a quiet war.

A war against the poor, working class and middle class of the world that's been going on for decades with the help of a complicit global banking system, lax regulations, a shadow financial system, clever accounting trickery - and here in America, a false Republican-Libertarian political narrative that's brainwashed millions of angry working class supporters of the GOP to buy into the idea that wealthy people and bloated corporations paying their fair share of the tax burden in this nation is a violation of "freedom."

As the Panama Papers have shown us, the wealthiest individuals and companies across the globe have been enriching themselves with a financial freedom unbound by laws, ethics or regulation that most people aren't permitted access to - and up until now, many didn't even realize existed.

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