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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 4/9/16

Putin Smear Backfires on Britain

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Message Finian Cunningham
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Reprinted from Sputnik

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
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The deluge of leaked files on tax dodging by the global elite appeared to be aimed at smearing Russian President Vladimir Putin. But it is the British authorities who have ended up being "dangerously exposed."

When news headlines on the so-called Panama Papers were circulated in Western mainstream media earlier this week, the main focus was on speculation that Putin was somehow implicated in scamming millions from tax avoidance.

For more discerning viewers, the sensationalist speculations had the hallmark features of another wild-eyed smear-job. All hype and no substance, just as in many other previous attempts by the Western media to blacken the Russian leader's reputation -- based on nothing else but prejudice and innuendo. Recall the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17 and Putin's "gunslinger walk" as but two such tawdry episodes.

Despite the convoluted hype, the Russian leader was not even named in the latest files leaked from the Panama-based law firm, Mossack-Fonseca. The firm specializes in setting up shell companies for rich clients in overseas jurisdictions, thus helping these clients evade tax in their home countries.

Western media outlets predictably leapt to racy implications about Putin because, among the thousands of clients named, some apparently had a personal friendship with the Russian president. The Kremlin dismissed the speculation of financial impropriety as "more fibs" that the Western media periodically indulges in in order to smear Putin.

Turns out, however, that the seeming attempt at smear has gone awry, and instead has backfired badly, with gooey egg running off the face of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron is under fire about allegations that he may have gained personally from tax avoidance schemes that his father set up while head of an investment firm. Cameron senior ran a firm called Blairmore which was a major intermediary of the Panama-based legal outfit, setting up shell companies for other British businesses. Typically, the shell companies would be registered in British-controlled overseas territories where they paid zero tax.

Those territories include British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. In this way, Britain's rich elite, banks and other corporations could save billions of pounds from paying taxes to the British government.

Amazingly, perhaps, these rich men's financial tricks are not considered illegal by the authorities. Although, most people would at least discern them to be unethical practice.

Premier David Cameron this week denied having any shares or trusts in overseas tax havens, and he claimed that his sole assets included his salary, savings and a family home. However, Cameron has been coy about answering directly the issue of whether he may have benefited from his father's wheeling and dealing.

When Cameron's father, Ian, died in 2010, his personal estate was reportedly valued to be the equivalent of $5 million, of which his son inherited $500,000. It was the same year that David Cameron was elected prime minister as leader of the Conservative Party.

Thus, it would seem self-evident that the British prime minister has indeed gained from the proceeds of tax avoidance through his late father's legacy. While strictly not illegal, nevertheless such a connection has politically foul whiff about it.

This scandal is not only confined to the occupant of 10 Downing Street. Several other senior members of his own party, including former ministers, have been named in the Panama Papers as patrons of tax-dodging shell companies.

Last year, too, the British Chancellor (finance minister) George Osborne was also separately implicated in tax dodging. This stemmed from his father, Sir Peter, selling the premises of the family business in London to a property developer based in the British Virgin Islands. The developer reportedly avoided paying 2 million ($3m) in tax to the British exchequer.

What is amusing in all this is that yet another lame bid to slander the Russian president has ended up boomeranging on the heads of Western governments, and Britain in particular.

Iceland's prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson has been forced out of office by widespread public anger over his involvement in alleged financial misconduct. Some 70 other world leaders and high public officials have also been singled out in the Panama Papers as having holdings in offshore firms.

With over 11 million files having been leaked, the financial dirt is bound to keep on mounting for weeks to come.

The heat is certainly growing under the feet of Britain's David Cameron and others members of his Tory government.

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Author and journalist. Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master's graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal (more...)

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