In recent years hackers have dumped several troves of secret financial records revealing criminal activity by powerful institutions and a broad range of celebrity figures. In 2015 the secret files of HSBC, Europe's largest bank, showed its deep involvement in laundering drug money. In 2016 the Panama Papers showed a global ring of elite corruption, including the family members of China's top political leaders. On 5 November 2017, the Paradise Papers began to reveal the extent and scope of corruption within the system of "tax havens" established during the period when Britain lost its colonial empire.
The Paradise Papers have been taken from one of the largest of Britain's "financial services" companies and from 19 "secrecy jurisdictions" in former British colonies. They represent the growth of a new underground British Empire, one that helps finance organized crime around the world, including every major terrorist organization. As with the old British Empire, the new one drains a vast amount of wealth from other countries, including the United States and Britain's partners in the European Union. Other major losers are resource-rich African nations and the economically dynamic states of Asia. From them the "tax haven" system drains trillions of dollars badly needed for development.
Politically, this system has had a profound effect on the state of the world. It provides a place for drug lords to hide their multi-billion dollar profits, enabling the trafficking that finances ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram. Those terrorist organizations guard the production of opium and heroin in Afghanistan and the routes traffickers use to get to their major markets (see AFP video on the right). "Tax havens" launder the wealth of Latin American drug cartels and pay for the gun runners who foster the armed conflicts in Africa that hide the theft of gold, diamonds, hardwood, and other natural resources.
None of this is covered by the mass media. That is certainly not unconnected to the fact that the owners of mass media are often among the super-rich who send money offshore to avoid paying taxes. Mainstream economists have helped in the invisibility of the tax haven system because their calculations never factor in the multi-trillion dollar flows out of national tax jurisdictions.
In watching the sampling of video coverage presented on this page, note the consistent lack of overview, the constant focus on the immediate scandal.
Part 1 of Democracy Now program (Nov 2017)
2015 BBC program on HSBC revelations
CBS: 60 Minutes segment on Tax Havens ( 2011)
Part 2 of Democracy Now program (Nov 2017)
Canadian show (2017)
BBC coverage of Paradise Papers (2017)
Video capsule from AFP (2012)
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