Mossack Fonseca sign
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The Panama Papers leak is the largest leak of information the world has seen, its 11.5 million documents dwarfing the Wikileaks release by a considerable margin. We do not know who is behind the leak, but the scale on which it has been done and the sophisticated and covert means by which the information has been passed to the Suddeutsche Zeitung precludes the possibility of this being the work of a lone maverick: this is an operation conducted on an industrial scale and with specific purposes.
On the face of it the release of the papers is an attack on Mossack Fonseca, which stands accused of money laundering and assisting the world's wealthy and elite to avoid taxation. That may seem to most a laudable aim as such "offshore" firms exist to circumvent national and international rules on taxation and financial propriety. Such rules are constituted to ensure that wealth makers pay the prescribed amounts of tax revenue to appropriate authorities and to ensure that the proceeds of criminal activity cannot be laundered to benefit criminals.
What is evident from the release of the Panama Papers is that Mossack Fonseca is heavily implicated in both activities; so it would seem to be a matter in the global public interest that its activities be exposed and curtailed. Yet for such ethics to work, they must be applied without favour to all offenders; they must not be selective and target some wrongdoers whilst ignoring others. That would seem to be an uncontroversial assumption to most people.
But it is clear from the papers released that there is a huge and improbable bias in those whom they expose: the main targets appear to be the Russian political hierarchy and establishment; BRICS nations are heavily represented too; the Chinese leadership and numerous other betes noires of a US led West are also present. Of even greater interest is the absence of a single US politician from the list - or indeed of a single US billionaire. As the nation with the greatest number of dollar millionaires per capita it would be reasonable to expect that US citizens would feature heavily in the list; as US politicians are the wealthiest elected lawmakers in the world (the majority of Congress are now millionaires and the average wealth of a Senator is $2.5 million) it is natural to expect they would feature heavily. They do not.
In fact their absence is astonishing. The US is quite unscathed by the report and it must therefore be assumed that either the US is remarkably uncorrupted and honest in such matters - or the chief motive in the release of the Mossack Fonseca papers is both US based and controlled from a political perspective. There are some exceptions - a handful of apparent US allies have been included amongst the papers released, but these are 1) notable by their rarity and 2) are generally third-person, rather than first-person implicated. It may also be reasonably conjectured that as it is axiomatic of intelligence operations that they feature collateral damage to provide cover for their source, so an element of minor self-incrimination is inevitable in this case.
There may be a number of governments and international financial authorities as well as law enforcement agencies who would wish to attack this twilight world of money laundering and tax evasion - but there are few who have the ability to penetrate and organise the convoluted and extraordinary secrecy of an organisation like Mossack Fonseca, whose business is both secret and highly devolved.
Indeed, only a powerful national intelligence agency with extensive resources and surveillance technology has the ability to conduct such an operation. There is undoubtedly a rising tide of international intolerance for wealthy elites who seek to conceal their wealth and avoid paying tax as most citizens are obliged to do, but such principles must be applied equally and to all if they are to be just. The complete absence of US elites - and almost all Western elites - from the papers suggests that the release is highly selective and biased in nature. That in itself sets alarm bells ringing and suggests that the motive is only partially one of an assault on the offshore world.
So what is the real motive of the Panama Papers release? From its effects and from the apparent care which has been taken to keep Western elites from the list it must be assumed that its primary purpose is to undermine opposition to the US and to distract attention from the activities of the Western Alliance. Assuming the Panama Papers is a CIA sponsored operation, the great question is: does an operation which involves the exposing of no less than 11 leaders of sovereign countries have political cover and authorisation? One would assume that such cover would require the highest possible authorisation and it would be a source of great concern if an intelligence body was able to undertake an action of this kind without it.