Like some mad conspiracy theory from the outer reaches of the world wide web the revelations relating to the Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, have exploded onto our media consciousness with a bang, enveloping the great and the good of the global oligarchy in scandal. Or rather, they haven’t. In truth the bang was rather muffled, tempered by the inability of most people – including journalists – to understand the arcane workings of the international banking system and the alchemy of the keyboard warriors of the balance sheet (accountants, hey?). One suspects that many people might just shrug their shoulders thinking, sure, didn’t we know what “they” were up to anyway? Others, perhaps less apathetic, might well ponder to themselves: how to hell do I get myself a slice of that salubrious pie? However, unconcerned or not, the scale of the revelations are staggering, and deserving of the hyperbole. From AlterNet:
“An enormous cache of documents was just released, exposing how political and economic elites from around the planet are stashing their money in secretive tax havens.
The Panama Papers is one of the biggest leaks in history. Substantially larger than WikiLeaks’ 2010 release of U.S. diplomatic cables or Edward Snowden’s 2013 release of NSA files, the leak consists of 11.5 million documents from the world’s fourth-largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. At a massive 2.6 terabytes in size, the Panama Papers reveal information about 214,000 companies.
An anonymous source leaked the trove to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The publication subsequently shared these files with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which subsequently collaborated with news outlets worldwide.
In what is being called “the largest cross-border media collaboration ever undertaken,” at least 370 journalists working for more than 100 media organizations in 80 countries sifted for over a year through the documents, which show just how widespread corruption is throughout the world.
Among those implicated in the scandal are arms traders, human traffickers, drug dealers, con artists and 143 politicians—a veritable who’s who of global leaders, including 12 current or former heads of state, along with their families and friends.
Many Western media reports on the Panama Papers framed the story around Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose close friends are involved in the corruption, but he is just one small part of the much larger scandal.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine, both of whom are close Western allies, are directly implicated in the corruption.
A slew of other leaders are involved, including Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan; Ayad Allawi, the ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq; Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the prime minister of Iceland; Alaa Mubarak, the son of Egypt’s former Western-backed dictator; and the children of Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan.
Joining them are a key member of the ethics committee of international soccer association FIFA, family members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and even the son of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
British lawmakers and the father of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron are also implicated, along with donors to political parties. So too are the families of members of China’s ruling body, the politburo.”
And on it goes. Needless to say, the ruling classes of the “free” and “unfree” world have made hay while the sun shines and the serfs labour. So far most of the revelations lie within the grey area regarded as “outside the spirit of the law“. Very soon the stuff unambiguously outside the letter of the law will come to the fore. Some of the names are unsurprising. The prominent position of the kleptomaniacs running Russia and China is entirely predictable. Likewise, the odd sprinkling from Britain is no shock, though the Etonian-types are rather better at keeping these things under wraps. The prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, was a bit of a surprise to some, though questions have been circulating on the island republic for some time now. Of course, unlike the citizens of other “Western” democracies, the Icelanders are actually willing to kick up a wee bit of a fuss about such things, as was witnessed in Reykjavik this morning. The vox populi, etc.