Monday, December 26, 2016

Year End Review of A Top News Story on Panama Papers (12/26/16)

It is the time of year for media outlets to start recycling their choices of top news of the year.  Here is one from BBC on the Panama Papers disclosures.  Panama Papers: What happened next? (BBC 12/26/16), here.  This is a pretty good, if brief, article summarizing the global fall out from an interview with the two top journalists originally accessing the data and pulling together the consortium of journalists to analyze it.  The article focuses not just on hiding for tax purposes but for all sorts of nefarious -- aka illegal -- purposes.

Some excerpts (bold-face supplied by JAT):
Mr Obermaier said the Panama Papers had shown how the offshore world could be used to help aid terrorism. 
"It is striking for me that Europol found 3,469 probable matches between their own files and the Panama Papers - 116 between them on a project on Islamic terrorism alone." 
Mr Obermayer agrees and said the leak had revealed that the offshore world was not only a place for rich people to avoid taxes. He said the Panama Papers showed the secrecy of shell companies could be used to hide criminal activity. 
"I wasn't shocked that rich people use offshore to dodge taxes. I was shocked that there were so many crimes. I think the vast amount of offshore companies are used because someone wants to hide something." 
Mr Obermayer argues there have been concrete changes as a result of the leak's publication. 
"A lot has changed, in Germany. Our finance minister just introduced a new 'Panama Law' (requiring citizens to declare if they are using a shell company) and Panama itself is more open for change now. 
"Some countries have announced registers for beneficial owners and others are also arguing for that for the first time ever. 
"The pressure on tax havens is as high as never before and the Panama Papers have done that. They have directed the spotlight at the problem. 
"But still, what hasn't changed is that the very industry that helps tax dodgers is still alive and kicking. They have huge influence, huge power, huge lobby groups. We don't see the end of offshore - but we do see that offshore is shrinking." 
A potential solution? 
Both journalists argue for a global register of beneficial owners to end tax secrecy. A beneficial owner is the person who has significant control of a company and its profits. 

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