Just two weeks ago, following the terror attacks on Brussels, the Daily Observer published an editorial titled “Terrorism May Be Too Lucrative to End”.
In that editorial, we argued that ending terrorism was as easy as following and drying up the money; but that because there is a whole value chain involved where too many power players would have too much to lose, the political will has been missing in action.
We quoted the late Harry Greaves, who in his Let’s Lecture series explained that the U.S. Government is able to closely monitor the financial dealings of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and their associates.
“Many officials in government are of the mistaken notion that if they steal public money and salt it away in a bank outside of the country, they are home free. Not quite…,” Greaves wrote.
“…if you transfer money through the international financial system, you create a paper trail.
“Every US dollar transaction, no matter where it originates or terminates, passes through New York and the Federal Reserve system. And don’t think you can conceal your deception by putting the money in an account of a relative or close friend… There is a legal principal called tracing. If ill-gotten gains can be traced to you, they can be confiscated…”
Two weeks later, we are pleasantly surprised to see the findings of what has become known as “the Panama Papers”. The papers comprise 11.5 million documents leaked from Mosseck Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that allegedly helped the world’s wealthy hide their cash in order to avoid paying taxes for the last 40 years. The findings were published by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
According to the ICIJ, the firm’s clients include “dozens blacklisted by U.S. authorities because of evidence they’d been involved in wrongdoing, such as doing business with drug lords, terrorist organizations or rogue nations like Syria and North Korea…
“Based on a trove of more than 11 million leaked files, the investigation exposes a cast of characters who use offshore companies to facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion, financial fraud and drug trafficking.”
There is sure to be political fallout from this in nations whose leaders (present and former) and their associates have been named in the papers.
But two things are important here. One is that this sets an excellent precedent as the beginning of the end of organized evil in the world. This is not just about political leaders hiding oil money. This casts a much wider net to include the drug trade, terrorism and human trafficking, to name some of the major problems destabilizing our world today. It shows that following the money is entirely possible.
What is also important to note is that Panama is not the only tax haven in the world. Others include Ireland, the Cayman Islands and the Seychelles, to name a few. As such, we hope to see the Ireland, Seychelles, Cayman Island and other papers emerge.
We also hope to see the banning of tax havens all around the world so that criminals have no place to hide their loot.
We as members of the fourth estate congratulate the ICIJ, Süddeutsche Zeitung (the German publication to which the papers were leaked) and other participating media partners in the investigation, for a groundbreaking investigation that is not just another scandal, but one that could have a very tangible
impact on ending corruption of all kinds in the world.
As it turns out, the Bible was spot on when it said “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
That means that if we follow the money, we can uproot all evil. Not just some — ALL evil.