Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Panama Papers: Tip of a Hugely Dirty Iceberg

Panama Papers: Tip of a Hugely Dirty Iceberg

by Stephen Lendman

The world’s rich and powerful public and private figures have top lawyers, accountants and others advising on how to avoid taxes and keep their wealth hidden from public view, including legal and other ways to use money to make more of it.

Governments protect their privileged class, including the US Treasury, Department of Justice and Congress. The Constitution’s commerce clause gives lawmakers the power to regulate banks and cash flows.

They can block money transfers to destinations offshore known to hide and protect ill-gotten or suspect wealth. They can authorize investigations to uncover criminality and hold guilty parties accountable. Instead, they’re part of the problem, not the solution.

Ordinary people either play by the rules or suffer the consequences, tax avoidance beyond their capability, other than amounts too small to matter.

What’s not revealed in the Panama Papers is far more important than what’s known so far, a snapshot of far greater illicit cash flows, hidden in secret offshore tax-free accounts.

Shell companies and other schemes hide identities of individuals involved. The Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm is at the heart of the scandal. A previous article discussed it. 

How many others like it operate worldwide, including in America and other Western countries? Enormous sums are hidden out of public view - amounts way exceeding the GDPs of the world’s richest nations, perhaps more than America’s and EU countries combined.

Imagine how ordinary people worldwide could benefit if taxes on this money were collected and used for beneficial social purposes.

Imagine universal healthcare, education to the highest levels, housing for the homeless, food for the hungry and more not available or in insufficient amounts for most people.

Notable Western public and private figures were largely omitted in initial Panama Papers revelations. More is now coming out, perhaps much more to follow, including around 600 Israeli companies and 850 shareholders linked to the data.

Former Sharon bureau chief Dov Weisglass was named. So was African mining industry executive Jacob Engel and Idan Ofer, a London-based billionaire.

According to Haaretz, Weisglass is named as sole owner of British Virgin Islands registered company, Talaville Global. Seven months later, its shares were mortgaged as collateral for a Vienna-based bank loan.

Bank Leumi, Israel’s second largest bank, is mentioned, including correspondence from its Channel Islands branch providing tax shelters for clients with Mossack Fonseca.

Last October, it announced the branch’s closing after it paid a $400 million Justice Department and New York state settlement regarding tax evasion schemes involving US clients.

Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest, used Mossack Fonseca to manage various trust funds for clients until 2011.

Noted Israeli lawyer Jacob Weinroth was mentioned in connection of Virgin Islands-registered Sapir Holdings, a shell company listing him as its only director.

Billionaire Teddu Sagi’s name was revealed as sole shareholder of at least 16 offshore companies established by Mossack Fonseca.

He was earlier indicted and acquitted of money laundering charges. Money trails are hard to unravel, skillfully made murky to impede discovery.

According to the right-wing Washington Free Beacon, Hillary Clinton is linked to Panama Papers revelations through the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm founded by her campaign chairman John Podesta and his brother Tony, a major campaign bundler, as well as close Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal.

They’re named in connection to Sherbank, Russia’s largest bank, the Podesta Group lobbying on its behalf. Whether Clinton is involved in dubious financial dealings isn’t known. 

It remains to be seen if revelations to come implicate her and/or husband Bill directly.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 


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