by Rosie Rawle
by Rosie Rawle
“The difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is the thickness of a prison wall.”
Denis Healey, UK Chancellor 1974-79
The leak of over eleven million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca only really scratches the surface. Like all tax havens, there is a long history of corruption and exploitation to which the tale of Panama is no exception.
In 1937, then US Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, wrote a letter to President Franklin D Roosevelt, singling out the Bahamas, Panama and Newfoundland as places where:
‘stock-holders have resorted to all manners of devices to prevent the acquisition of information regarding their companies. The companies are frequently organised through foreign lawyers with dummy incorporators and dummy directors, so that the names of the real parties in interest do not appear.’
Two weeks ago, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened to mixed reviews from film critics, but nonetheless went on to perform spectacularly at the box office. Just this week, the Panama Papers were also unleashed into the public sphere, from the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. The 11.5 million document leak featured startling revelations on a web of shady offshore accounting, involving twelve prominent world leaders including David Cameron. Implicating a total of 143 world politicians, their families and close associates, the leaks demonstrated the various ways in which elite rulers have been exploiting secretive offshore tax regimes.