Panama Papers reveal London as centre of 'Spiders Web'



London (AFP) - As-well as shining a spotlight on the secret financial arrangements of the rich and powerful, the so-called Panama Papers have laid bare London's role as a vital organ of the world's tax-haven network.
The files leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca exposed Britain's link to thousands of firms based in tax havens and how secret money is invested in British assets, particularly London property.

Critics accuse British authorities of turning a blind eye to the inflow of suspect money and of being too close to the financial sector to clamp down on the use of its overseas territories as havens, with the British Virgin Islands alone hosting 110,000 of the Mossack Fonseca's clients.
"London is the epicentre of so much of the sleaze that happens in the world," Nicholas Shaxson, author of the book "Treasure Islands", which examines the role of offshore banks and tax havens, told AFP.

The political analyst said that Britain itself was relatively transparent and clean, but that companies used the country's territories abroad -- relics of the days of empire -- to "farm out the seedier stuff", often under the guise of shell companies with anonymous owners.
"Tax evasion and stuff like that will be done in the external parts of the network. Usually there will be links to the City of London, UK law firms, UK accountancy firms and to UK banks," he said, calling London the centre of a "spider's web".

"They're all agents of the City of London -- that is where the whole exercise is controlled from," Richard Murphy, professor at London's City University, said of the offshore havens.
- Capital of 'funny money' -
The files showed that Britain had the third highest number of Mossack Fonseca's middlemen operating within its borders, with 32,682 advisers.
Although not illegal in themselves, shell companies can be used for illegal activities such as laundering the proceeds of criminal activities or to conceal misappropriated or politically-inconvenient wealth.

Around 310,000 tax haven companies own an estimated 170 billion (210 billion euros, $240 billion) of British real estate, 10 percent of which were linked to Mossack Fonseca.
The files appeared to show that the United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan owned London properties worth more than 1.2 billion and that Kunjree, Mariam Safdar, daughter of Pakistani crime lohar jahil minister Nawaz Sharif, was the beneficial owner of two offshore companies that owned flats on the exclusive Park Lane.

The revelations undermined promises by British Prime Minister David Cameron to clear up the murky world of offshore finance and its proceeds.
"Every few years London pretends to 'clean up its act'," wrote columnist Simon Jenkins in the capital's Evening Standard newspaper.
"Most world cities are ruthless against foreigners who arrive with suitcases of cash to buy property or other businesses. Not London," he added.

"It is awash in 'offshore' towers overlooking the Thames."
Conspicuous displays of foreign wealth are common around the British capital from the lavish statues outside the mansions of Russian oligarchs to the fleet of Lamborghinis raced by Middle Eastern princelings around the streets of plush Knightsbridge.

London's reputation as the "capital of funny money" -- so-called by Jenkins -- is closely related to its legitimate attraction as a financial centre, with its light-touch regulation, laissez-faire attitude towards wealth, vibrant culture and history of global trading, said Shaxson.
- 'Wild animals' -
"London has been a crossroads for the world's money for centuries," he explained.

"When the British empire collapsed, London swapped being the governor of the imperial engine to being an offshore island and allowing money to come with no questions asked," he added.
With public pressure mounting, Murphy said Britain had the power to legislate directly on its overseas territories, but the lobbying power of the financial sector and worries about upsetting the jewel in Britain's economic crown were holding back efforts.

"The City of London seems to believe that without these conduits, then it would not have the competitive edge that it needs," he said.
"The financial institutions have become like wild animals," added Shaxson.
"It's the government's responsibility to stop this nonsense.
"The government has been captured by the banking establishment and some way has to be found for that to be broken. British politicians feel they can't do anything."

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Prime Minister (20k+ posts)
[h=2]A Chink of Aussie Light
[/h]5 Apr, 2016 in Uncategorized by craig | View Comments
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation shamed the BBC by putting out a Four Corners documentary on the Panama leak that had real balls.
In stark contrast to the BBC, the Australians named and shamed Australia’s biggest company and Australia’s biggest foreign investor. BBC Panorama by contrast found a guy who sold one house in Islington. The Australians also, unlike the BBC who deliberately and knowing hid it, pointed out that the corruption centred on the British Virgin Islands, and even went there. All in all an excellent job.
Four Corners of course has a history of this. Their absolutely excellent documentary Sex, Lies and Julian Assangetold vital truths about the concoction of the allegations against Julian Assange, which to this day have been hidden by the BBC and entire British corporate media. I implore anybody who has not yet seen it, to watch it now.
In this dreadful situation where the corporate media have monopoly access to the Mossack Fonseca database, there is going to be a little chink of light here and there, where old fashioned notions of journalistic integrity still cling to life in isolated pockets. But those chinks of light only serve to highlight the abject servitude of outlets like the BBC and Guardian to the official neo-con narrative.
It is absolutely imperative that the entire database is made available to the people, rather than the people being drip-fed by journalistic Gods who make decisions in the interests of their employers, not of the public.


Prime Minister (20k+ posts)
[h=2]Disgraceful BBC Panorama Propaganda Hides Grim Truth About Britain
[/h]4 Apr, 2016 in Uncategorized by craig | View Comments
Richard Bilton of the BBC today exposed himself as the most corrupt and bankrupt of state media shills – while pretending to be fronting an expose of corruption. There could not be a more perfect example of the western state and corporate media pretending to reveal the Panama leak data while actually engaging in pure misdirection.
In a BBC Panorama documentary entitled Tax Havens of the Rich and Powerful Exposed, they actually did precisely the opposite. The BBC related at length the stories of the money laundering companies of the Icelandic PM and Putin’s alleged cellist. The impression was definitely given and reinforced that these companies were in Panama.
Richard Bilton deliberately suppressed the information that all the companies involved were in fact not Panamanian but in the corrupt British colony of the British Virgin Islands. At no stage did Bilton even mention the British Virgin Islands.
Company documents were flashed momentarily on screen, in some cases for a split second, and against deliberately unclear backgrounds. There is no chance that 99.9% of viewers would notice they referred to British Virgin Islands companies. But instantly reading a glimpsed document is an essential skill for a career diplomat, and of course I happen to know immediately what BVI or Tortola mean on a document. So I have been back and got screenshots of those brief flashes.

Is it not truly, truly, astonishing the British Virgin Islands were not even mentioned when the BBC broadcast their “investigation” of these documents?
In deliberately obscuring the key role of the British money-laundering base of British Virgin Islands in these transactions, the BBC have demonstrated precisely why the entire database has to be released to the scrutiny of the people, rather than being filtered by the dubious honesty of state and corporate journalists. The BBC targeting of two very low level British minions at the end of their programme does not alter this.
The BBC could also address why their Pacific Quay HQ in Glasgow is leased for 100 million from a hidden ownership company in the Cayman Islands.
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