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Panama Papers Affair Widens As Database Goes Online (bbc.com) 100

In late April, it was reported there would be a huge new 'Panama Papers' data dump on May 9th. The report did not disappoint as today the Panama Papers affair has widened, with a huge database of documents relating to more than 200,000 offshore accounts posted online. The database can be accessed at offshoreleaks.icij.org. The papers were leaked by a source known as "Jony Doe," and the papers belonged to the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) decided to make the database public despite a "cease and desist" order issued by the law firm.
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Panama Papers Affair Widens As Database Goes Online

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  • to an INSHORE account or two?
    • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @06:09PM (#52079739) Homepage

      Not really. The point of having an "offshore account" is to keep money somewhere financially better than one's own country, primarily to avoid taxes.

      For instance, let's say I'm going to be making a large transaction, such as selling a luxury yacht and buying a bigger one, but I live in a country where such a transaction would be taxed heavily. It is financially beneficial for me to set up a shell company in a foreign country, sell that company my current yacht (for a small-but-legal price), then have that shell company sell the yacht and collect the income. Taxes on the income would be paid, but at the low rate of the foreign country. Then the shell company can borrow money from me to buy the new bigger yacht, and pay me a small amount in interest on that loan, which conveniently works out to be exactly the cost of renting the yacht to me, so it's a legitimate practicing business.

      The foreign company can then also hire crew for the boat, under a contract with another company (possibly from a third country) to provide labor, so my crew doesn't have to be subject to my own country's labor laws.

      The fun part is that not only is this legal, but in the United States, it's a First Amendment right. Courts have upheld that you have the right to decide (except for discrimination) who you will do business with as a matter of free expression, summarized in the common suggestion to "vote with your wallet". If I choose to sell my yacht to a foreign company at a huge loss, that's my choice. From then on, it's entirely a foreign business, and my home country's laws have virtually no effect.

      Now, eventually if I want to sell my yacht and bring my money back home, that's another matter... then my country's laws can have an effect, and I can be taxed heavily, but if I don't need the money, then there's no reason to move it from its foreign tax haven.

      • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @06:18PM (#52079787) Journal

        Not really. The point of having an "offshore account" is to keep money somewhere financially better than one's own country, primarily to avoid taxes.

        Quite right, but they are also used as safe havens for folks with more than one pile of money needing a stash haven.

        Let's say you are Head of State (or even a VIP) in a nation where it's possible you'll be deposed one day. Keeping all your wealth in a domestic account, or in accounts abroad that can be frozen, doesn't seem like the safest plan for your retirement. Welcome to the allegedly secret, offshore banking industry!

        • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @06:48PM (#52079977) Journal

          Which explains why the leaders of China and Russia, while apparently all but destitute, appear to have many wealthy relatives. It's pretty clear that a number of even larger nations are using offshore havens to squirrel away significant amounts of money.

          Of course, there is more than one kind of haven as well. Vancouver and London are cities that are becoming notorious for the number of people from Russia and China buying up real estate. The amount of real estate being bought up in Vancouver by Chinese nationals, many of which who do not even live here, is becoming a significant political issue. London, of course, is home to many properties owned by Russian oligarchs, again looking for a way of protecting their wealth. The amount of financial activity going on with these property schemes is actually distorting real estate prices in these two markets.

          A lot of this is happening now, I think, because the more traditional place for oligarchs, criminals and the more generically wealthy to hide their cash (ill gotten or otherwise), Switzerland, was forced, largely by the US, to end the practice of secret bank accounts. When that happened, it forced many people to look elsewhere, and that is how these other somewhat lesser known tax shelters have become so popular.

          • I recall an heated conversation about the fate of hide-your-money banking when the Swiss banks were opened up, after centuries of hoarding the secretive wealth of the rich and infamous.

            Unbeknownst to the majority of earners, there is a class of well-moneyed people who earn so much their biggest concern is in diversity of risk.

            It turns out there were a number of nations willing to house secretive banking communities. Most of them are secretly happy about the Fonseca breach.

            • The recent openness of Swiss accounts is exaggerated. It only applies to accounts opened after about 1950, the Kennedy, Bush, Rockefeller and all other 'old money' numbered accounts remain secret and open for business. I'm sure they backdated the Clinton and Obama ones too. Just professional courtesy.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @05:58PM (#52079675)

    I had heard a panel of "journalists" was selectively editing out elements of the database to remove some records.

    With the presidential race chock full of candidates who ALL may well be present in the data and thus possibly scrubbed by zealots, do we know if this is all of the data obtained?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Bullseye. Now instead of a Panamanian lawfirm completely gating my access to this information, I have an organization selectively gating access to this information in a manner that suits their interest. While I have no evidence to prove that its happening, it's always worrysome when an organization like this sets themselves up in a way that they can use public outrage as a tool.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > I had heard a panel of "journalists" was selectively editing out elements of the database to remove some records.
      Please provide a reference so we can verify what you say.

    • They claimed this was the biggest leak of all. Yet, the full database they let us download is 35.7 MiB.

    • This is not like Snowden's raw data dump. ICIJ [icij.org] are real "journalists" and are very ethical about what they publish [icij.org].

      ICIJ is publishing the information in the public interest.

      The new data that ICIJ is now making public represents a fraction of the Panama Papers, a trove of more than 11.5 million leaked files from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s top creators of hard-to-trace companies, trusts and foundations.

      ICIJ is not publishing the totality of the leak, and it is not

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        ICIJ is publishing the information in the public interest.

        Forgive me if I don't trust anything other than a public vote to decide what is in the public interest.

        Hackers who target this organization and 'liberate' this sort of information are criminals and should be treated as such. If they are going to do it though I really feel that the more 'responsible' disclosure would be dumping ALL the data online so everyone gets to see rather than setting up some news organizations to be gatekeepers and giving them the opportunity to decide what everyone is suppose to thi

  • C&D (Score:5, Informative)

    by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @06:26PM (#52079835) Homepage Journal

    ...despite a "cease and desist" order issued by the law firm.

    There is no such thing as a cease and desist order, except when it comes from a competent court of appropriate jurisdiction. A C&D letter from a law firm is nothing more than a formal request to stop doing something -- granted, a sharply worded, hostile, threatening request, but a request nonetheless.

  • I don't seem to have an offshore bank account :'( Guess I'll remain poor.
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @09:30PM (#52080777)
    I'll respond to your Cease and Desist Order with a Fuck Off and Die Order.
  • by Art Challenor ( 2621733 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2016 @12:08AM (#52081409)
    Romney (last election cycle) pretty much admitted to using tax havens. I'd be surprised if Clinton wasn't using offshore accounts, or a very similar tax dodge. Trump - hell yes!
    Once again behaviour that is outrageous and totally unacceptable in most of the world is just expected "business-as-usual" in the US
    • It was always totally acceptable for everyone except the minority concerned about inequality and cronyism, aka commies. So they decided to do this leak to cause a rift between Russian commies and commies from the rest of the word. Divide et impera.

You mean you didn't *know* she was off making lots of little phone companies?

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