Washington, DC (TFC) – Over the weekend a massive coordinated document leak was published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that exposed the offshore dealings of 140 world politicians and public figures including 12 current and former world leaders. Despite the importance of this leak US media has been overwhelmingly silent and the slight media coverage the Panama papers have received has been used to criticize one man: Vladimir Putin.
Western media has spent the 24 hours since the release of the documents highlighting money being funneled out of Russia into offshore corporations and tax havens and trying to draw a dubious connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Despite the fact that Putin isn’t mentioned anywhere in the over 11 million documents; outlets such as the Guardian are already claiming the trails of money from Russia “lead to Putin” as evidenced by being connected to some of his “best friends.”
Nobody outside of the media should be willing to say that just because Putin isn’t directly named that he may not be involved in some shady dealings. The issue is that regardless of whether he is directly involved with these financial dealings or not; it doesn’t change the relationship between Russia and the Western powers.
What should be more concerning to the West (especially the US) is not what their geopolitical adversaries are doing but instead the fact that several of their close allies are seemingly doing the same things. From the European Union to the Gulf there has been multiple partner states of the US with officials implicated in offshore dealings in the Panama papers.
So far the only US allied leader feeling high pressure is the Prime Minister of Iceland; who has refused to resign after massive protests in Reykjavik erupted once the citizens of his country learned of his multi-million dollar interests in the Virgin Islands that he hasn’t paid taxes on.
The next Western leader who looks like they’ll be facing pressure is British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron’s late father was also listed in the leak in a long list of world leaders’ relatives to have secret offshore holdings. Cameron has so far declined to comment on whether or not his family still has money parked in the Virgin Islands. It isn’t just the PM himself under fire; three former members of parliament in the conservative party and quite a few donors have been implicated in similar dealings as Cameron’s father.
Iceland and the UK have gotten some attention in US media but as always there is a simple reason that these are somewhat safer subjects to cover than other US allies listed in the leaks. The US can cope with leaders who were democratically elected in their countries coming under fire because at the end of the day the overall system in these countries will still remain in place just with a new face of the brand.
The real problem countries that US officials should be made to answer for are the dictatorial regimes (i.e. monarchies) who are constantly under fire for military, labor and financial crimes. The two nations that fit this description the best that should be in the spotlight are the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and of course, Saudi Arabia. Both of the gulf nations’ heads of state were directly involved with the Panamanian law firm that created a multitude of offshore asset shelters and real estate shell companies for each of them.
Not that these actions are anything outside of the scope of what most critics of these regimes assumed they were doing but now all the proof to confirm their criminal practices is on the table. In the case of the UAE (a playground for Western money; “President” Sheikh Khalifa was connected to around 30 companies based in the Virgin Islands that hold $1.7 billion in real estate assets in the UK.
King Salman in Saudi Arabia has seemingly been slightly smarter about covering his connections but he is clearly in a similar positions as Sheikh Khalifa. Salman is still listed as having a role in several real estate holding companies in the Virgin Islands although it’s “unspecified” what that role is. Regardless of his title at these hollow corporations is they’ve still taken out mortgages for high end property in the UK for around $34 million with King Salman and his assets listed “in relation” to the mortgages.
This is just the beginning of the leak. Nowhere near all of the 11.4 million documents have been sorted through yet and this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. There may not be many US names seen on this list but a lot of these financial devices were made obsolete by the passage of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. However, there is likely be more names leaked from nations with less oversight so the best advice for now is just to keep seeking updates on the leak.