Critic breakdown: Panama Papers

Politicians, billionaires, philanthropists, movie stars and sportstars. This assortment of the rich and famous have been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks for being implicated in a web of conspiracy that has remained is secret for decades.

The Panama Papers are being called the biggest journalistic leak in history. The scandal has shed light on the tax-avoidance practices of some of the richest and most famous people in the world.

Here’s what you need to know:

The leak

Two weeks ago 11.5 million files, or 2.6 terabytes, were leaked to German Newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung before being passed on to the International Consortium of Journalists. The consortium including 107 media outlets from around the world.

The leak was the largest and most complicated coordination of a simultaneous story release ever.

Who’s been implicated?

12 national leaders, 143 politicians, at least one movie star and two sportsmen. So far only a small number of people have been outed, according to the media release, based on notoriety or relevance. However, more are expected to come as the files are made public.

Notable people:

Ian Cameron, Father of British PM David Cameron

Vladimir Putin, Russian President

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Iceland Prime Minister – resigned over the leak

Petro Poroshenko, Ukrainian President

Gianni Infantino, Fifa President

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan prime minister

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates President

Simon Cowell, Television producer

Willian Borges da Silva, Chelsea football player

Stanley Kubrick, filmmaker 

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York

Jackie Chan, movie star

Pedro Almodóvar, filmmaker

Sir Nick Faldo, golfer

Bobby Fischer, Chess grandmaster

Paul Burrell, Princess Diana’s butler

Heather Mills, Paul McCartney’s ex

Roksanda Ilincic, Serbian fashion designer 

Sir Mark Thatcher, Margaret Thatcher’s son

Andy Cole, Former football player

Lord Glenconner

What does this mean for New Zealand?

More than most would realise. New Zealand is mentioned in 60,000 documents, likely to do with the country having the laxest tax laws in all western democracies. Off-shore trusts are not taxed by the New Zealand government. Therefore, the Panama Papers has raised some serious questions about how New Zealand manages its tax laws and whether we are already a ‘tax haven’. 

There is an argument that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering the financial business conducted in New Zealand as a result. However, the ethical dilemma of housing the world’s richest’ money is hard to shake. 

Prime Minister John Key has called for an independent inquiry of New Zealand’s tax law as a result of the leak.

This article first appeared in Issue 7, 2016.
Posted 10:36am Sunday 17th April 2016 by Henry Napier.