Monday, 4 April 2016

The Panama Papers Leak: Tax Havens Explored

Most of us must not have forgotten the WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. Years ago, a new chapter included itself into the history of journalism. Now, we have the Panama Papers leak. This time, 'Panama Papers' is going to jolt the world of journalism as well as force us to think about the mindset of riches who are constantly on one foot finding the ways to 'somehow save their black money,' evade taxes and escape the grip of the law. Panama papers are the documents that reveal the use of offshore accounts by influential people to save their taxes (illegally). By influential people, I mean businessmen, film stars, sports personalities, politicians and celebrities from any other field. They use offshore shell companies to hide the actual figures of their asset holding. This entire investigation that is said to be completed by more than 100 media groups together, has gone through more than 11.5 million records.

The ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalism), which is at the centre of this investigation, had somehow accessed the database of a law firm based in Panama named Mossack Fonseca. According to the public domain information, this law firm is one of the biggest creators of shell companies in the world. The accessed data has revealed the names of great world leaders (which also include Putin, the Russian president) as well as other personalities. Lionel Messi, who recently got out of the grip of Spanish law in the case of tax theft, is also among the sports personalities whose names have come out.

The Panama papers have revealed 143 politicians comprising of twelve national leaders, their families, and close associates. These people have used the tax havens (offshore) very efficiently to hide their assets. According to a report in The Guardian, Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif's name is also on the list of politicians. This news, for a nation like Pakistan which suffers from economic paralysis, is certainly not good.

However, as the history says, people will come in defence of those who are convicted. For the information of those, the journalists from more than 100 media houses have spent almost a year analyzing all the documents.

According to the reports of an Indian media house, there are some Bollywood personalities who have been named in the leaked documents to use the offshore tax havens to hide their assets.

Now the world is in a 'wait and watch' mode. Nevertheless, I am still in dilemma - how much money do they need?

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