Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Economic and Social Cost of the Panama Papers

Death. Taxes. The endless, seemingly unholy awfulness of the Toronto Maple Leafs. For decades, these were the things Canadians could firmly believe in, the trifecta of issues that neither gods nor masters could hope to affect. But times change. Doctors find life-saving drugs. The Leafs find new management. And the overtaxed—some of them find lawyers.

Expensive ones, most of whom live on exotic islands with an abundance of blue water, white sand, and lax financial regulations. For the right price, you too can hire a gaggle of them to shuffle your money into and out of a web of offshore bank accounts, shell companies, and trusts so that the Canada Revenue Agency will be able to neither follow nor find it.

That’s the big take-away from the Panama Papers, a package of over 11 million e-mails, contracts, scanned documents, and other financial files leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca last year. The first news stories were published on April 3, 2016. Taken together, the Papers function as a kind of master class in avoidance and evasion, outlining how some of the world’s wealthiest politicians, entrepreneurs, sports stars, entertainers, and others (including 625 or so Canadians) use the laws of far-off lands to hide hundreds of millions of dollars from ex-spouses, tax authorities, Interpol, or sometimes all of the above.  (more...)


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