Marie over at A Puff of Absurdity offers a very good overview of something that is certain to have long-lasting reverberations, The Panama Papers. Be sure to check out her post.
The Toronto Star reports the following:
In the largest media collaboration ever undertaken, more than 370 journalists working in 25 languages dug into 11.5 million documents that revealed Mossack Fonseca’s [a Panamanian law firm renowned internationally for establishing shell companies] inner workings and traced the secret dealings of the firm’s customers. The more than 100 news organizations involved shared information and hunted down leads generated by the leaked files using corporate filings, property records, financial disclosures, court documents and interviews with money laundering experts and law-enforcement officials.Significantly, the only Canadian media organizations to participate in the consortium undertaking this massive investigation are The Toronto Star and the CBC/Radio Canada. At least someone in our country is concerned about the public good.
Why is this such an important investigation? First and foremost, it identifies a panoply of individuals and companies whose main motivation is tax avoidance. Their allegiance to themselves and, in the case of corporations, their shareholders, is paramount.
It should be stressed here that the vast majority of those involved in these schemes are doing nothing illegal, merely taking advantage of loose tax laws that permit such avoidance. But to me, this points to an incontrovertible truth about some wealthy individuals and many corporations: they feel no obligation to pay the country of their residence their fair share of taxes. In other words, they are putting their own financial security and profits above the land that nourishes and hosts them, the land that provides them with an educated workforce and the infrastructure that make their wealth possible.
And that should serve as a cautionary tale of great magnitude as we contemplate, for example, signing both the CETA and TPP free trade deals. The Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions of such trade agreements give priority to corporations over state sovereignty so that should a country's laws impinge upon a company's profits, that company can sue the government. Given that The Panama Papers will confirm that loyalty and patriotism are concepts foreign, indeed, inimical, to those who pursue profit at almost any cost, there is surely reason for real caution.
The investigation is a wake-up call for governments to amend tax laws that in fact aid and abet theft from national treasuries. Here at home,
... Canadians have declared $199 billion in offshore tax haven investments around the world, according to Statistics Canada.But experts say that figure is a small fraction of the Canadian offshore wealth that goes undeclared.One need not have an especially rich imagination to consider how an increase in federal coffers of that size could be used for the benefit of all.
The precise annual cost to Canadian tax coffers is unknowable. But credible estimates peg Canada’s tax losses to offshore havens at between $6 billion and $7.8 billion each year.
Every so often, thanks to circumstance and the indefatigable efforts of investigative journalists, the curtain is pulled aside and we are able to get a peek at an underlying and ugly reality. Ours is a world in which selfishness and evil often prevail, thanks to the complicity of far too many and the shield of darkness behind which much of this takes place.
Perhaps The Panama Papers can help to bring some much-needed light and eventual reform to this shameful and unjust state of affairs.