We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Leona Helmsley, American business woman and socialite 2007
The revelations contained in the Panama Papers are nothing new, except perhaps the scale of the problem. Even back in 2012 we had the tax scandal of the Barclay Bros, British media tycoons and proprietors of the Telegraph Media group, who lived the high life avoiding tax payments in the UK tax havens in the Channel Islands and also spending their time in Monaco, another tax haven.
Then in 2014 there was the case of right-wing US billionaires the Koch Bros. A leak of confidential documents expands the list of big companies seeking secret tax deals in Luxembourg, exposing tax-saving manoeuvres by American entertainment icon The Walt Disney Co., politically controversial Koch Industries Inc. and 33 other companies.
Disney and Koch Industries, a U.S.-based energy and chemical conglomerate, both created tangles of interlocking corporations in Luxembourg that may have helped them slash the taxes they pay in the U.S. and Europe, according to the documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Widespread corporate use of tax manoeuvres akin to these, in tax shelters the world over, are estimated to cost the U.S. treasury billions annually.
Additionally, there has been and ongoing series of bank malfeasance involving British and American banks:
- Standard Charter Bank 2012 – Money Laundering
- HSBC – laundering money for Mexican drug cartels – 2012
- J.P. Morgan and the London Whale – 2012
- Barclays and the Libor Scandal. 2012
…to name a few. I gave up listing further instances of currency market, precious metals market, interest rate market manipulation, as it became impossible to keep track, but for further details check out Google/Wikeapedia.
What is significant here is that these scandals all involved Anglo-American financial/banking interests. It is a matter of record that the international financial system is dominated by Anglo-American banks and financial firms, based in London and New York. And corruption and malpractice is endemic in this business. In fact, a number of US investment banks have decamped to London since the light touch regulation in the UK allowed them to do things that they couldn’t get away with on the other side of the pond. Not for nothing was the City of London referred to as the US’s financial Guantanamo.
Moreover a recent publication Gomorrah, by Roberto Saviano, an internationally acclaimed crime expert, cites the City of London as the money-laundering centre of the world’s drug trade, according to him UK banks and financial services have ignored so-called “know your customer” rules designed to curb criminals’ abilities to launder the proceeds of crime, warned Mr Saviano, author of the international bestseller which exposed the workings of the Neapolitan crime organisation Camorra, said: “The British treat it as not their problem because there aren’t corpses on the street.” (The Independent, July 2015)
All par for the course in elite financial circles. But according to the Graun:
The temptation to conclude that all those names found in the papers are equivalent and rotten to the core is strong. But it is a temptation to resist: every case must be carefully judged on the specifics. David Cameron, whose father’s Blairmore investment fund is shown to have got up to all sorts of offshore antics to avoid ever paying UK tax, is not Vladimir Putin, whose cronies are documented to have amassed vast fortunes through financial engineering backed by apparent state fiat. The evidence for corruption at the Kremlin looks devastating, whereas Mr Cameron can fairly protest that the son is not responsible for the deeds of the father, especially not as he has taken some steps – such as banning the “bearer shares” that Cameron Sr’s fund long ago used – to protect the public interest.
So you see that Anglo-American finance capital which is scandal-ridden and rotten to the core, is not nearly as bad as Putin – who physiognomy is plastered over all the Guran’s front pages – maximising the demon-image. But note it was not Putin but his cronies who amassed fortunes. But the smear is enough.
My experience of eastern Europe, which has included the former Yugoslavia, East Germany, Russia (Soviet Union) Ukraine (Soviet Union and Independent 1991) led me to the conclusion that corruption is pretty well endemic in these states and societies. The outstanding instance of this took place under the rule of Boris Yeltsin and his oligarch backers, including one Boris Berezovsky – Godfather of the Kremlin – during the 1990s when the rule of law broke down.
Interestingly enough when Berezovsky fell out of favour he was granted political asylum in the UK; this in spite of his nefarious criminal activities which ‘probably’ included the murder of Paul Klebnikov, an American journalist of Russian extraction who wrote a withering critique of Mr B in his book, published in 2000, Godfather of the Kremlin. Never let it be said that Russian Mafia Dons would not get a warm welcome in the UK. This aside, it would be interesting to know by what criteria does the Graun judge Putin and his cronies to be worse than ours?
But of course this is all beside the point. What the Graun is patently trying to do is to milk this global scandal for every ounce of anti-Putin value they can extract. It is all part of the hybrid war which is going on between the west/NATO and Russia. The western media has been mobilised as part of this offensive, spewing out disinformation, propaganda and outright lies. Putin, along with those impertinent little upstarts like Assad who don’t do what they are told, are to blame for everything bad in the world. Why? Because we say so. The neo-con playbook is apparently also the Graun’s playbook.
Funny how all this has come out just after the success of the Syrian army’s success in its campaign against the jihadists. Would the Graun be that cynical – you bet they would.