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article imageOp-Ed: The easy way to search the Panama Papers — Without the hype

By Paul Wallis     May 10, 2016 in Crime
Sydney - Have suspicions that your local duly elected, taxpayer-funded saint may be a less saintly than it appears? Think your employer is living remarkably well in a few extra mansions? Just search the Panama Papers. It’s easy.
The Panama Papers are a major deal. They’re the smoking gun to the rampant global corruption, money laundering and tax scams which make the world such a fun, expensive place to live.
The good news for the world’s happy inhabitants is that these papers are easy to search. All you need to do is enter some basic details about your location, and spend a few fun-filled months reading all about the local heroes.
Please note — the Offshore Leaks Database (OLD) goes to considerable lengths to ensure that it’s clear that individuals are not seen as being accused of breaking any laws. That’s quite right; leave that to the courts, and the fact is that many are doing legitimate business. There’s nothing illegal, per se, about holding capital in other countries, in fact it’d be rather hard to do business otherwise. See also the OLD disclaimer regarding implications of listings.
Panama Papers leaks: political connections
Panama Papers leaks: political connections
I searched Australia, to be confronted with a list of both major companies and people and things I’ve never heard of. Information is systematically laid out in to categories, locations and sources.
There are links to Offshore Entities, Officers, Intermediaries and Addresses if you’re looking for someone or something in particular. For Australia, there are 39 entities, 14 officers, 7 intermediaries and 1,212 addresses. Must be very busy and travel a lot, I assume.
Information connects entities to investments and gives a brief history of them. Some of the information is also about defunct companies. A company called Australia H&H International Group Ltd, for example, indicates that the company no longer exists, “struck off” (deregistered) in 2006.
The problem with the Panama Papers
Although it is a long-held public belief that corruption makes the world go round, as well as insane, the difficulty with the Panama Papers is that it’s also fodder for uninformed views.
Let’s clarify:
1. Tax evasion is illegal. It involves deliberate evasion and non-payment of taxes which are legally payable.
2. Tax minimization is legal. It’s a very common practice in international business, and it’s also a way of managing tax obligations using tax concessions, allowances and credits.
3. Holding capital is not illegal. It’s often necessary for conduct of business.
4. Money laundering, by definition, is illegal, used to hide the proceeds of crime.
The Panama Papers refer to documentation of holdings in tax havens. The public perception, however, is that the very rich and the very corrupt must be the same people.
That view has a lot of holes in it. It’s not even good theoretical business practice for people who don’t need to be corrupt to get involved in messy tax schemes. They don’t need to do that. Warren Buffett, for example, famously pays less tax than his secretary, perfectly legally, and seems to manage his finances without ridiculous, illegal. ways of doing so.
There is no doubt whatsoever that money laundering, corruption, and tax scams are endemic, and causing a lot of new government tax and criminal laws to come in to force around the world. China and the US, for example, are doing so. China executes its corrupt people on a routine basis. The US has been getting a lot of flak, and losing a lot of revenue, for not doing more about its problems and unfortunately not executing some of its more outstanding scum.
The Conspiracies R Us brigade, however, are as usual missing the substance of the issues. This type of corruption is hardly new, let alone a conspiracy. Forget a group of megalomaniacs trying to fund their world domination. (If you rule the world, do you have to pay for it?)
Corruption of this kind is thousands of years old. It was endemic in Egypt, Rome, China and just about every other ancient civilization. The modern version, not very surprisingly, is simply more obvious because there are more people doing it in a corrupt global rather than local environment. Again, not much of a conspiracy, by any standards. How can it be a “conspiracy” if everyone’s doing it?
What’s being overlooked is that the extremely rich have no need to wallow in trivial little money-grubbing schemes. The economy of the ultra-rich is largely disconnected from the mainstream economy, in many ways. They can make more money with a phone call, even with tax, than they can employing some pathetic little gerbil in a tax haven to create legal risks for them and let the fan get hit with damage to their public images.
If you’re looking for real issues in the Panama Papers:
 The big problem is the black economy – The hundreds of billions of dollars siphoned off by the world’s leading global parasite, organized crime and its associates every year. The modern world is a holiday resort for crime, complete with nice islands to store their money outside jurisdictions.
 The incredibly stupid aren’t the problem – Anyone naïve enough to believe that they and their ill-gotten peanuts are safe from prosecution only needs to look at the very long history of failed attempts to hide money since about 3000 BC. Al Capone and Bernie Madoff didn’t get away with it, either.
 Another, potentially more important issue are the facilitators – While the current problem is looking pretty bad, worse is the fact that these tax shelters can operate as a global cover machine for a lot of illegal money movements. Take out the operators and the mechanism can’t work.
Moral of story: don’t go nuts, get results. The legal people aren’t a problem. Focus on the illegal money, and a good time will eventually be had by all.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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