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Wednesday, April 6, 2016, Chaitra 23, 1422 BS, Jamadius Sani 27, 1437 Hijri

The Panama Papers, global media and James Bond
Abu Sufian Shamrat
Published :Wednesday, 6 April, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 80
Several global media outlets have played a pivotal role like what James Bond does in the movie-a fictional British Secret Service agent created in 1953 by Ian Fleming as well as popular series of a film James Bond 007-in revealing the laundering and corrupt monetary activities of the 'global one percent' comprising heads of state, politicians, celebrities, sports stars, businessmen, criminals, and so on. These outlets have published the results of an investigation into the financial dealings of the rich and powerful, based on a vast trove of documents of the Panama-based law firm 'Mossack Fonseca' handed over by an anonymous source. This massive information leak has been dubbed as the 'Panama Papers' by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ), a non-profit group based in the United States of America. Even the ICIJ published the 'Panama Papers' originally, although 'Sueddeutsche Zeitung', a Munich-based daily, first received the data more than one year ago shared with several allied media. In total, some 107 media outlets in 78 countries investigated the material where they found that since 1977 the global elite were involved in these shadowy financial dealings of offshore business because of financial and legal advantages in order to avoid tax systematically and secretly.
The 'Panama Papers' include 11.5 million records, dating back nearly 40 years-making it the largest leak in offshore history. These documents contain details on more than 214,000 offshore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries, revealing the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials around the world including 12 current and former world leaders. Among them are the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia. It is also found that some $2.0 billion in transactions secretly shuffled through banks and shadow companies by associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The scandal also includes the brother-in-law of Chinese President Xi Jinping; Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko; Argentina President Mauricio Macri; the late father of UK Prime Minister David Cameron and three of the four children of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. According to an analysis of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) the documents show that Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson had an undeclared interest linked to his wife's wealth. He is now facing calls for his resignation. The documents also include the names of at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the US government because of evidence that they had been involved in business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. The papers show how major banks have driven the creation of hard-to-trace companies in offshore havens where more than 500 banks and their subsidiaries and branches, including HSBC, UBS and Société Générale, created more than 15,000 offshore companies for their customers through Mossack Fonseca. Bollywood stars as Amithabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai and the popular footballer Lionel Messi are also accused in this scandal.
However, the 'Panama Papers' and the hidden schema of these reveal the following trends. First, institutionalization of elite accommodation within a wider scale of global governance is occurring under the shadow of a culture of corruption. Secondly, money laundering and the involvement of the national figures reveal that neoliberal nature of the economy is creating a pathway of monopoly as well as empire of capital. Thirdly, nationally and globally the culture of tax evasion and the securitization of black money are constructing another global economic order where the global elite would be entrusted to invest their black money. Fourthly, inequality is increasing geometrically as Thomas Piketty argued that the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income where the 'global one percent' is playing hide-and-seek game regarding their capital's occurring an unequal tax regime within their own national states. Fifthly, this scandal questions the present character and procedure of the global monetary and transaction systems which would not be able to unify a global monetary regime against corruption and money laundering. Sixthly, as the level of tax collection is decreasing the welfare nature of states is under pressure to provide equal treatment to the people of all levels. Seventhly, creation of a huge amount of capital by using elite positions (state power, performance in specific sector, administrative position, and so on) is showing that the process of globalization is struggling to find a way by which a universal inclusion of the rich, the middle class and the poor would be imagined. Eighthly, the global legal and security systems are not designed in favour of the other 'global ninety nine percent' where tax justice, allocation of resources and offenders' punishment would be a game of town.
As huge amount of information leaked with a revealing of a progressive role of the global media, now is the time to uproot the core of corruption and money laundering like the missions of James Bond. It is high time to create a world of equality to 'live and let die' the system of elitist mode of corruption. With 'A view to a kill', the neoliberal economic order should address and mitigate the issues of globalization of corruption. The national governments as well as the global monetary institutions should create a unified tax regime where the global elite would not be able to construct their 'Casino Royale' of capital evading tax. However, the 'Panama Papers' should be considered as a way to raise the voice of the 'global ninety nine percent' against corruption and inequality and the hope is that 'Tomorrow Never Dies.'

Abu Sufian Shamrat is Researcher at Bangladesh Centre for Political Studies (BCPS). Email: [email protected]

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