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  • [On April 3, 2016 we saw the largest data leak in history.]

  • [The Panama Papers exposed rich and powerful people]

  • [hiding vast amounts of money in offshore accounts.]

  • [What does this mean?]

  • [We called Robert Palmer of Global Witness to explain.]

  • This week, there have been a whole slew and deluge of stories

  • coming out from the leak of 11 million documents

  • from a Panamanian-based law firm called Mossack Fonseca.

  • The release of these papers from Panama lifts the veil on a tiny piece

  • of the secretive offshore world.

  • We get an insight into how clients and banks and lawyers

  • go to companies like Mossack Fonseca

  • and say, "OK, we want an anonymous company,

  • can you give us one?"

  • So you actually get to see the emails,

  • you get to see the exchanges of messages,

  • you get to see the mechanics of how this works,

  • how this operates.

  • Now, this has already started to have pretty immediate repercussions.

  • The Prime Minister of Iceland has resigned.

  • We've also had news

  • that an ally of the brutal Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad

  • has also got offshore companies.

  • There's been allegations of a $2 billion money trail

  • that leads back to President Vladimir Putin of Russia

  • via his close childhood friend,

  • who happens to be a top cellist.

  • And there will be a lot of rich individuals out there

  • and others who will be nervous about the next set of stories

  • and the next set of leaked documents.

  • Now, this sounds like the plot of a spy thriller

  • or a John Grisham novel.

  • It seems very distant from you, me, ordinary people.

  • Why should we care about this?

  • But the truth is that if rich and powerful individuals

  • are able to keep their money offshore

  • and not pay the taxes that they should,

  • it means that there is less money for vital public services

  • like healthcare, education, roads.

  • And that affects all of us.

  • Now, for my organization Global Witness,

  • this exposé has been phenomenal.

  • We have the world's media and political leaders

  • talking about how individuals can use offshore secrecy

  • to hide and disguise their assets --

  • something we have been talking about and exposing for a decade.

  • Now, I think a lot of people find this entire world baffling and confusing,

  • and hard to understand how this sort of offshore world works.

  • I like to think of it a bit like a Russian doll.

  • So you can have one company stacked inside another company,

  • stacked inside another company,

  • making it almost impossible to really understand

  • who is behind these structures.

  • It can be very difficult for law enforcement

  • or tax authorities, journalists, civil society

  • to really understand what's going on.

  • I also think it's interesting

  • that there's been less coverage of this issue in the United States.

  • And that's perhaps because some prominent US people

  • just haven't figured in this exposé, in this scandal.

  • Now, that's not because there are no rich Americans

  • who are stashing their assets offshore.

  • It's just because of the way in which offshore works,

  • Mossack Fonseca has fewer American clients.

  • I think if we saw leaks from the Cayman Islands

  • or even from Delaware or Wyoming or Nevada,

  • you would see many more cases and examples linking back to Americans.

  • In fact, in a number of US states you need less information,

  • you need to provide less information to get a company

  • than you do to get a library card.

  • That sort of secrecy in America has allowed employees of school districts

  • to rip off schoolchildren.

  • It has allowed scammers to rip off vulnerable investors.

  • This is the sort of behavior that affects all of us.

  • Now, at Global Witness,

  • we wanted to see what this actually looked like in practice.

  • How does this actually work?

  • So what we did

  • is we sent in an undercover investigator to 13 Manhattan law firms.

  • Our investigator posed as an African minister

  • who wanted to move suspect funds into the United States

  • to buy a house, a yacht, a jet.

  • Now, what was truly shocking was that all but one of those lawyers

  • provided our investigator with suggestions

  • on how to move those suspect funds.

  • These were all preliminary meetings,

  • and none of the lawyers took us on as a client

  • and of course no money moved hands,

  • but it really shows the problem with the system.

  • It's also important

  • to not just think about this as individual cases.

  • This is not just about an individual lawyer

  • who's spoken to our undercover investigator and provided suggestions.

  • It's not just about a particular senior politician

  • who's been caught up in a scandal.

  • This is about how a system works,

  • that entrenches corruption, tax evasion, poverty and instability.

  • And in order to tackle this,

  • we need to change the game.

  • We need to change the rules of the game

  • to make this sort of behavior harder.

  • This may seem like doom and gloom,

  • like there's nothing we can do about it,

  • like nothing has ever changed,

  • like there will always be rich and powerful individuals.

  • But as a natural optimist,

  • I do see that we are starting to get some change.

  • Over the last couple of years,

  • we've seen a real push towards greater transparency

  • when it comes to company ownership.

  • This issue was put on the political agenda

  • by the UK Prime Minister David Cameron

  • at a big G8 Summit that was held in Northern Ireland in 2013.

  • And since then, the European Union is going to be creating

  • central registers at a national level

  • of who really owns and controls companies across Europe.

  • One of the things that is sad is that, actually, the US is lagging behind.

  • There's bipartisan legislation that had been introduced

  • in the House and the Senate,

  • but it isn't making as much progress as we'd like to see.

  • So we'd really want to see the Panama leaks,

  • this huge peek into the offshore world,

  • be used as a way of opening up in the US and around the world.

  • For us at Global Witness, this is a moment for change.

  • We need ordinary people to get angry

  • at the way in which people can hide their identity

  • behind secret companies.

  • We need business leaders to stand up and say,

  • "Secrecy like this is not good for business."

  • We need political leaders to recognize the problem,

  • and to commit to changing the law to open up this sort of secrecy.

  • Together, we can end the secrecy

  • that is currently allowing tax evasion,

  • corruption, money laundering to flourish.

[On April 3, 2016 we saw the largest data leak in history.]

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【TED】Robert Palmer: The Panama Papers exposed a huge global problem. What's next? (The Panama Papers exposed a huge global problem. What's next? | Robert Palmer)

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    Zenn posted on 2017/07/23
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