#PanamaPapers, an arrow through the opacity of tax evasion…
Investigative journalism has always been a difficult task, time and energy consuming, but it often incorporates many of the elements required for a mediatic shock. So when it comes to the finance world, wealthy celebrities and world leaders, the “name and shame” effect can usually be amplified enough for the news to hit headlines. When its big enough, you get something like the #PanamaPapers, a global scandal, covered by the media globally.
Thinking logically, one would think revealations such as money laundering, Tax evasion or arm-dealing should make the buzz around the media, and more importantly lead to action and sanctions. Also, just like the #PanamaPapers, scores of reports, leaks and documents have been unveiled over the recent years. While this kind of news have repeatedly hit headlines, the whole process has been a lot less successful at bringing change in this world of opacity.
The ICIJ has been investigating leads on the topics of tax evasion and dodgy finances for years, exposing scandals in London, Luxembourg and Swisstzerland.
Back in November 2012, 4 years ago, the ICIJ shed light on a london property scandal, revealing how the “UK is turning into a property speculators’ haven”
The Offshore leaks article stated:
Secretive trusts and companies born in the British Virgin Islands have helped anonymous buyers snap up luxury properties in London and other UK locales.
Two years later in 2014, it was in Luxembourg that ICIJ directed its investigations to reveal the findings of 28,000 pages of leaked tax agreements, returns and other sensitive papers relating to over 1,000 businesses involved in multi-billion dollar tax secrets.
The Guardian wrote at the time:
Leaked documents show that one of the EU’s smallest states helped multinationals save millions in tax, to the detriment of its neighbours and allies
Then, last year in february, a team directed by the ICIJ uncovered a serie of documents revealing that “global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers”.
Team of journalists from 45 countries unearths secret bank accounts maintained for criminals, traffickers, tax dodgers, politicians and celebrities
So why the Panama documents matter? Why so much buzz over it?
The scale of the leak this time is much larger, global, with persons and organisations involved all around the world, indicating that taxes are as sure as death, regardless where we live, and many will try to dodge it.
While many of the world leaders have been fast to announce measures and tax investigations, it remains to be seen if the #PanamaPapers will really lead to change or become one more arrow passing through the obscure world of financial secrecy. If it doesn’t, then not only investigative journalism will be dealt a blow, but the very foundations of our democracies will be shaken as it will signal the sad victory of a wealthy minority over the rest of the world population.