by William Skink
It is tempting to celebrate the release of the Panama Papers as a win for those of us who don’t benefit from offshore tax havens, but is it a win?
One of the first alternative theories that caught my attention was from Brookings, speculating that perhaps Putin was behind this release. Since Putin was an initial target of these leaks, this theory may seem counterintuitive, but read the whole piece first and then tell me it isn’t at least plausible. Here’s the money shot:
As many have already pointed out, it’s curious that the Panama Papers mention no Americans. But it’s possible that they do and that the ICIJ hasn’t revealed that information. Perhaps, since the ICIJ is funded by Americans, they’re not going to bite the hand that feeds them. But suppose the ICIJ actually doesn’t have information on Americans—that calls into question the original data, which if actually real and uncensored would most probably include something on Americans. There are undoubtedly many American individuals and companies that have done business with the Mossack Fonseco crew, and it wouldn’t make sense for a collection of 11.5 million documents involving offshore finances to omit Americans entirely. Perhaps, then, someone purged those references before the documents were handed over to the German newspaper. The “someone” would, following my hypothesis, be the Russians—and the absence of incriminating information about Americans is an important hint of what I think to be the real purpose of this leak.
The Panama Papers contain secret corporate financial information, some of which—by far not all—reveals criminal activity. In the hands of law enforcement, such information can be used to prosecute companies and individuals; in the hands of a third party, it is a weapon for blackmail. For information to be effective as a blackmail weapon, it must be kept secret. Once revealed, as in the Panama Papers case, it is useless for blackmail. Its value is destroyed.
Therefore, I suggest that the purpose of the Panama Papers operation may be this: It is a message directed at the Americans and other Western political leaders who could be mentioned but are not. The message is: “We have information on your financial misdeeds, too. You know we do. We can keep them secret if you work with us.” In other words, the individuals mentioned in the documents are not the targets. The ones who are not mentioned are the targets. (original emphasis)
At Moon of Alabama, b was quick to unpack the selectivity of the leaks with this post from April 4th. After reading MoA for nearly a decade, I have learned it’s smart to include b’s perspective when trying to understand issues that the American-centric mainstream news media here is incapable of covering.
Counterpunch is another quality source of information, and it’s from there that another aspect of this massive data dump starts taking shape. For those already familiar with the disturbing financial trends of negative interest rates, bail-ins and the push to go cashless, the Panama Papers start looking like a different gambit altogether. From the link:
What we may be witnessing here is the 1% going after the 10% of people who, according to German researcher Margrit Kennedy, do not need to borrow but are “net savers.” Today the remaining 90% are “all borrowed up.” Either they are unwilling to borrow more or the banks are unwilling to lend to them, since they are poor credit risks. Who, then, is left to feed the debt machine that feeds the 1%, and more specifically the 0.001%? The power brokers at the top seem to want it all, and today that means going after those just below them on the financial food chain. The challenge is in squeezing money from people who don’t need to borrow. How to legally confiscate their savings?
Enter bail-ins, negative interest, all-digital currencies, and the elimination of “tax havens.”
Bail-ins allow the largest banks to gamble with impunity with their depositors’ money. If the banks make bad bets and become insolvent, they can legally confiscate the deposits to balance their books, through an “orderly resolution” scheme of the sort mandated in the Dodd-Frank Act.
Negative interest is a fee or private tax on holding funds in the bank.
Eliminating cash prevents the bank runs that these assaults on people’s savings would otherwise trigger. Money that exists only as digital entries cannot be withdrawn and stored under a mattress.
Exposing tax havens shows the predators where the money is and who has title to it, facilitating its confiscation and preventing the funding of massive rebellions against confiscation.
If true, the coming moves against upper-income tax brackets will be tough for them to comprehend, since I would presume a prevailing sentiment among this class is that they have accumulated enough to wealth to insulate themselves from the broader class war already being waged against the majority of people on this planet.
But here’s the harsh reality, 10%ers. If you’re not one of the 62 people who possess half the world’s wealth (and the few hundred mega-wealthy under this glided apex of capital accumulation) then you may be seen as just as expendable as the rest of us.