Cost of the Panama Papers continues to mount


A week after it was revealed that there had been a massive leak at the offices of Mossack Fonesca, a Panamanian law firm of millions of files on tax activities around the world, the Panama police have visited the offices. The raids come as the political toll around the world caused by the release of the files continues to mount.

When the Prime Minister of Iceland resigned abruptly last week as a result of the Panama Papers leak, I thought it was because he knew it would cost him his job if he did not.

In Britain, protesters have demanded the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, who admitted that his handling of coming clean on his tax affairs could have been done better – whether that is an admission of guilt or not, I am not certain. Mr Cameron also found himself fighting back allegations regarding his late fathers investments that stemmed from the papers.

And in Russia and China, the respective heads of State for both countries have been linked to vast sums stashed in tax havens. Neither Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping is likely to resign, no matter how big their roles are in these tax havens as it would be a stunning admission of guilt and hugely undermine their respective Government’s. However Mr Jinping’s crackdown on corruption, already undermined by the arbitrary detention of dissidents calling for more transparency, may receive a body blow.

Here in New Zealand, the admission of the Prime Minister to being linked to a company that specializes in foreign trusts, continues to boil. New Zealand has been mentioned over 60,000 times in the files.  Opposition parties, though they are yet to draw blood in the form of anyone in the Government resigning, certainly seem to think they can smell it. Yesterday in a bid to increase the pressure on the Government, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little released his taxation records for public scrutiny. The commentary in the media from journalists normally sympathetic to the National Government have not been altogether sympathetic to Prime Minister John Key, saying his attitude is not helping the Government, and is giving the public reason to suspect a cover up.

But it is in Malta at the moment that the next spillage of political blood may be about to happen. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and several senior officials in his Government are under pressure to quit, after thousands of Maltese rallied in the square in Valletta demanding their resignation. Although none of them have yet done so, given the depth to which Malta has been implicated in the release of the files from Mossack Fonesca, it could be only a matter of time.

A week might have passed, but the Panama Papers saga is more alive and well than many politicians want to admit.

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