Monday, December 4, 2017

NPR Fresh Air Interview of Bernstein About His Book Secrecy World (12/4/17)

On my daily walk today, I listened to this podcast.  Journalist Explains How Panama Papers Opened Up The World's Illicit Money Networks (NPR Fresh Air 11/20/17), here.  In the podcast, Terry Gross interviews Jake Bernstein who has recently written a book titled "Secrecy World" which has a chapter on the Panama Papers.  That book is now a best seller on Amazon, here.  He is also familiar with the Paradise Papers, the follow-up on the Panama Papers.  The link is to the podcast and to a transcription of the podcast for those who prefer to read (or just do a search of the transcription).

Some excerpts so that you get the flavor:
[GROSS:] Jake Bernstein, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let's start by just pulling back a little bit. What's the purpose of the offshore accounts that have been revealed in the Paradise and Panama Papers? 
JAKE BERNSTEIN: I mean, ultimately the purpose is secrecy. The purpose is to hide your activities or your money and to take advantage of certain benefits that you get from having stuff offshore, having anonymous companies. These are - there are tax benefits. There are benefits that one gets from being able to move money around in sort of secret ways. And so that's - ultimately, it's about tax avoidance or tax evasion and keeping your activities - your business activities - secret. 
GROSS: Especially if they're illegal activities. 
BERNSTEIN: Yes - very helpful to keep those secret. 
* * * * 
You know, the United States loses something like $70 billion a year due to the shifting of corporate taxes to tax havens. And that's money that could go to schools that could go to infrastructure. I could go to police. It could go to health care. But it's not. Instead, it's disappearing in the Caymans or the Bahamas or Bermuda or places like that. 
* * * * 
GROSS: So now we've been reading about the Paradise Papers. These are the papers that were leaked from another law firm that created a lot of shell companies, not nearly as many as MossFon did. But what's the difference between the Paradise Papers and the Panama Papers? 
BERNSTEIN: Well, at the firm that's at the center of the Paradise Papers is a firm called Appleby Global. It's based in the Bahamas. And they were a little bit more professional than MossFon. Their client was a little bit more high-end. They were more sophisticated. And they didn't skirt the law quite as much as Mossack Fonseca did. So there's a lot more Americans who used Appleby in part because Appleby is based in Bermuda, which is sort of culturally more acceptable, I think, to the Americans than Panama was - which is where Mossack Fonseca was based. But essentially, they're doing the same thing, you know? They're using the offshore world to hide money, to move it around, to avoid taxes. You know, it's the same MO.
And it goes on from there.  There is considerable discussion of Russian oligarch use of these offshore entities and Donald Trump's business dealings with them.

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