“A huge leak of documents has lifted the lid on how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth. The files were leaked from one of the world’s most secretive companies, a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca”. For more on the story check here and here, among no doubt many other links.
I was quite taken by one response, this by Natalie Bennet, leader of the Green Party: “The Panama Papers leak must not be diverted into a focus on foreign corrupt regimes. This is a British problem, a British crisis. The theft of billions from their people by corrupt political leaders and officials is being facilitated, even promoted, by British institutions and professional companies, and that must stop”, which increased my resolve to talk about something that has gone on for years, in all sorts of places and among all sorts of people and organisations, and that is to find ways to hive off the money (which may or may not be as a result of illegal or immoral activity) such that no one, least of all the tax man, is able to get any of it.
It is difficult to know where to begin because I have no doubt the practice is rife, just as the leak has revealed, and not just by despotic rulers and career criminals but often by so called respectable folk and those holding positions of power in their countries. All this got me thinking about Robin Hood, who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, “the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate” to quote from the original of a childhood favorite hymn: “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, and what the Bible says about riches and poverty.
The bottom line is that Bible does not condemn people who are rich but it does provide many warnings about the misuse of riches. It does encourage us to be good stewards of all we possess, to be content with what we have but also to value enterprise and hard work, including being able to gain money as a result, but only in order to give it away and use wisely. It is one reason why I am not a convinced Socialist or a convinced follower of the ideas of free enterprise. I have little faith that most of those with riches act as they should, as the Panama Papers leak show, and find the Socialist idea of redistribution of wealth is not without its many pitfalls.
But when I read this story, I am angry, especially as my gut feeling is it will soon blow over, partly as a result that those who are involved are powerful and can avoid being take to task, and similar scams will replace it because the people with serious amounts of money will still be around trying to avoid giving any of it away e.g. by paying taxes. It is not just rich and powerful Russian mafia like figures that milk the system or African rulers that do much the same or Middle East sheiks that multiply their wealth through receipt of bribes or numerous functionaries in numerous countries that only act for those who pay the going rate when it comes to bribes. Add to this the large multi-national companies that get away with paying peanuts or MPs that claim extortionate expenses while voting for reduction in benefits to the poorest in society and all sorts of other types whose gains are ill gotten or by exploiting others or evade paying taxes.
Yes, thinking about this story and its implications, which I hope will further blow the lid off something corrupt and evil that effects us all, I am angry, and if Natalie can crack this, I may well vote for her.