Saturday, April 09, 2016

Make All of Panama Papers Public, Now!

The Empire Strikes Back

by Craig Murray

7 Apr, 2016 

If you argue a case strongly on the internet you must expect to receive robust argument back.

Plus the odd insult.

There has been plenty of both in reaction to my posts about corporate media control of access to the data in the Panama Papers. But I believe it is fair to say that the overwhelming public feeling I have picked up through monitoring online discussion worldwide, is that the full data should be made available online in searchable form so that the public can look through it and form their own conclusions.

I wish to address in a little more depth the arguments which have been raised.

Several people have argued with my reference to “corporate media”, as the consortium includes state organisations such as the BBC. My response to that is that the BBC has become in the last few years a mouthpiece for state propaganda with no effective independence of government, and that the politicians are very much in the pocket of the corporations who fund them. The BBC therefore promotes corporate interests just as much as those outlets directly owned by corporate interests. It is simply a question of direct or indirect control.

The key point is that access to the Panama data has been restricted in accordance with a media order which is decades out of date. It ignores citizen journalism. The only online based platforms given access are the billionaire owned Huffington Post and Craigslist. Nowadays people prefer to find things for themselves.

This ostensibly sympathetic article from Richard Smith illustrates the problem rather well. It is one of trust. Do we trust the – let me use a neutral word – established media to filter the information and decide what we are permitted to see? My answer is no, I do not trust them. I know many mainstream journalists and the vast majority of them are interested in pleasing their paymasters and advancing their careers. Very few and vanishingly less are disinterested promoters of truth.

Nor do I accept that revealing a story about David Cameron’s dead father – a story which had been in the public domain for four years – or securing the resignation of the Prime Minister of Iceland, a tiny state which happens to have taken the most radical action of any against bankers, is sign of balance.

It is a sign of a pretence of balance.

But Richard Smith is entitled to his view and perhaps his naïve trust in corporate media indicates a pleasant and trusting nature. I am often called naïve myself for wanting the world to be a better place. Mr Smith evidently believes it already is.

The only thing I actively dislike in Smith’s article is the contention that I criticised the BBC for not pointing out that the British Virgin Islands were implicated in one document flashed on the screen, obscured, during the BBC Panorama. Actually there were three separate documents about separate transactions, all involving the British Virgin Islands. Those transactions were central to the entire first half of the programme, and for the BBC to hide that it was all happening in the British Virgin Islands was disgraceful.

The BBC of course do not like me and I have been banned from appearing for many years. One of the many thousand people who retweeted my original post on the Panama Papers, subsequently tweeted that he had done so by accident. This brought the magisterial rebuke from Jamie Angus, editor of the BBC Radio Today programme, that accident “is the only acceptable reason for retweeting Craig Murray.” I can understand that Mr Angus does not want people to hear opinions not sanctioned by his employers, but I would be interested to know why he feels it is not “acceptable” to read my pieces. He has since challenged me to mention that the British Virgin Islands were criticised on his radio programme. I am happy to do so, because unlike Mr Angus, I do not believe views other than my own should be suppressed.

I shall not trouble you with the large volume of simply abusive tweets I have received, co-ordinated by the usual two groups – British unionist and pro-Israel lobbyists who for some reason like to troll me. Let us just ignore them.

I should now come to the question of privacy. The Guardian newspaper, along with the BBC the main “owner” of the data in the UK, has made no bones about the fact that most of the data will not be published, and that there are “legitimate reasons” why people have offshore accounts and companies. As the Guardian’s owners operated from tax-dodging overseas accounts for years, they have to say that of course.

There has been surprisingly little discussion of this topic. I do not accept that there is any legitimate reason for owning offshore companies and offshore bank accounts, if you do not have a business genuinely located in and operating from the jurisdiction. Ordinary people do not have accounts in tax havens. The only reason people have accounts and fake companies in tax havens is to avoid tax and other legal jurisdiction. This is not morally acceptable, whether or not our rulers make sure it is legal. I therefore do not accept any privacy argument for keeping the vast bulk of the data from the public.

This argument s absolutely at the heart of the corporate media’s interest in hiding 99.9% of the information – which behind the obfuscation is precisely what they intend to do. This argument needs to be met head on.

The only subject of any interest now in the Panama Papers is whether the data will be fully released on the internet and available to everybody, and not hidden by the corporate media.

We must all campaign to release the data.

Big Labor Betrays Bernie (and Working America) Big Time

Big Union Leaders Betray Sanders and Workers

by Ralph Nader - CounterPunch

April 8, 2016

Around a conference table inside the large Washington headquarters of the AFL-CIO, a furious exchange occurred between labor union presidents. It was late February and up for decision by the Executive Council was whether the country’s principal labor federation was going to make a primary season endorsement of Hillary Clinton as favored by the leaders of the largest unions.

According to insiders, tempers flared when smaller unions challenged the Hillary-endorsing big unions such as AFSCME (public employees), the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Service Employees (SEIU) and the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). These large unions came out for Clinton in late 2015 and early 2016 before they sensed the growing rank and file workers’ preference for the lifetime advocate for workers and union backer, Bernie Sanders.

Listening to the nurses union head speak out for Sanders’ strong pro-labor history, Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, interrupted her, exclaiming: “I will not allow you to do a commercial for Sanders.” She retorted, “You mean for the only candidate who has a 100% labor record?”

A union leader of postal workers charged the unions backing Hillary as being “completely out of touch with their workers.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka then cut off their microphones.

All over the country, the observation by the postal workers’ leader rings true. Even as Lee Saunders read the names of the Democratic presidential contenders at a large Washington state AFSCME membership meeting last October, “only Sanders’ name brought loud, sustained applause,” according to Bloomberg News.

Few union leaders allow a worker referendum to make the endorsement decisions. The 700,000-member Communications Workers of America (CWA) does, and the result was a “decisive endorsement of Sanders,” reported Rafael Navar, the union’s political director. Whether it is the level of enthusiasm, campaigning to get out the vote or talking up their candidate’s record on such issues as minimum wage increases, abolition of public university and college tuition, full Medicare for all (single payer system) and credibility in standing up to Wall Street, Hillary’s votes and statements do not come close to respecting the working families of America compared to Bernie’s consistent 30-year record.

Based entirely on her lawless record as a pro-war Senator (Iraq), as a war-making Secretary of State (Libya), and her $5,000-a-minute speeches before closed-door, big-business gatherings (in addition to millions in big-money campaign contributions), Clinton will continue to be the sponsor of War and Wall Street.

The volunteer Labor for Bernie grassroots drive is not just growing rapidly but cutting across all union categories and gaining support with non-union workers. There is a potentially massive pool of American workers supporting Senator Sanders as he wins primary after primary, leading up to the April 19th contest in New York – the adopted state base for the Clintons, who are backed by all their monied interests.

This unaffiliated labor awakening bears watching, especially by the long-entrenched, affluent big union leaders. First, Labor for Bernie is fomenting defections by local unions defying their Hillary-endorsing national organizations. So far, over 80 of these union locals have endorsed Bernie Sanders.

Typical of this exodus is Northern California Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, whose executive board voted 30 to 2 for Sanders, reflecting the views of most of its 28,000 members. Local 5’s Mike Henneberry said

“For us it was not a very difficult decision. Compare an individual who’s been supporting workers since he was mayor of Burlington [Vermont] with someone who’s been on the Board of Walmart.”

The Service Employees Local 1984 (SEIU), New Hampshire’s largest public sector union, disagreed with its national union and came out for Sanders in November.

The big union leaders don’t smell revolt yet, but they must be worried. If the Clintons continue to play dirty tricks, with the big unions, as was suspected in Iowa and Nevada against the Sanders campaign, the seeds of challenges within the ranks of these unions will be planted. Should Hillary become president and come out for anti-worker trade treaties, return to her former coolness on a living wage and other labor issues and cater to Wall Street, the insurrection could congeal against the big unions who will have taken credit, of course, for her victory, without having delivered a mandate for a labor agenda.

It is the AFL-CIO’s practice of endorsing Democrats without demanding before and insisting after the election that candidates champion ‘card check’, revision of trade treaties, repeal of anti-union labor laws and stronger job safety regulation. The Democratic Party treats the mostly shrinking labor unions as having nowhere else to go. And most union leaders meekly oblige by their chronic submissiveness.

The man to watch is strategist and former labor union insider Larry Cohen. He was for many years the president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) that has endorsed Sanders. He’s going all over the country helping the Sanders campaign, urging major labor unions, still undecided, like the Steel, Auto, Firefighters and Electrical Workers (IBEW) to come out for Bernie.

But Mr. Cohen is looking beyond the elections to take the energy from the Sanders campaign and politically mobilize tens of millions of non-unionized workers behind a new Congress furthering a new economy as if workers mattered.

Time is of the essence. When will workers again have such a scandal-free, consistent labor champion as Bernie Sanders seriously going for the Presidency inside the Democratic Party. Had Sanders had two more months without this big union opposition, his current momentum could have allowed him to overtake Clinton by now.

Facing a possible four or eight years of the corporatist and militarist Clinton, coupled with U.S. multinational corporations exporting whole industries, not to mention accelerating labor-replacing automation, the hurdles for Americans believing in democracy, justice and peace becomes far, far greater.

So the time for preventive civic and worker engagement with all electoral contests is now!

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!
More articles by:Ralph Nader

Friday, April 08, 2016

Prison Profit in a Morally Bankrupt America

People Over For-Profit Prisons: a Social Movement in Gary, Indiana

by Paul Street  - CounterPunch

April 8, 2016

It’s understandable that United States progressives have been caught up in the national quadrennial electoral extravaganza this year. This is no ordinary election season. On the right side of the two party system we have the bizarre, possibly dangerous Donald Trump phenomenon and a potential Republican meltdown at the GOP’s national convention this summer. On the left side we have a remarkable progressive insurgency in the name of the “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders. He has tapped the anger of young and white working class voters to challenge the depressing status quo neoliberal Hillary Clinton.

At the same time, however, the delegate math and the smart money still point to a dismal, imperial Hillary presidency and progressives would do well to remember that national, candidate-centered presidential politics isn’t the only politics that matters.

Beneath and beyond the national, candidate-centered major party and big media election spectacle, whatever its outcome, there remains the arguably more important politics of grassroots popular organizing and movement-building around issues that matter within and beyond local communities.

The GEO Group: Turning Mass Incarceration Into Gold

One particularly inspiring and instructive example of such people’s activism can be found in the predominantly Black city of Gary, Indiana. A multiracial and multi-ethnic coalition there has been engaged in a remarkable struggle with a powerful private, for-profit prison corporation. The company, GEO Group (hereafter “GEO”) owes its name to George Zoley, its founder and CEO, once described by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) as “America’s Highest Paid ‘Corrections Officer.” Boasting an annual revenue of $1.7 billion, GEO stands in the odious vanguard of the global mass imprisonment state with a distinctively white-supremacist and English-speaking taste for locking down people of color. It manages 104 human warehousing and lock-up facilities, with 87,000 beds and 20,500 employees across four countries: the United States. the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa. Nearly two-thirds (64) of its prisons are located in the U.S., the disparate mass incarceration capital of the world and home to roughly a quarter of the planet’s prisoners – most of them Black and Latino.

Formerly known as “Wackenhut,” the Florida-based GEO is the nation’s second largest private prison firm after Corrections Corporations of America (CCA). It describes itself as “the first fully-integrated equity real estate investment trust specializing in the design, development, financing, and operation of correctional, detention, and community reentry facilities worldwide.” Zoley “earns” $1.5 million a month on the backs of taxpayers, under-paid workers, and of course, inmates – the critical dehumanized raw material for “correctional” profits.

Since its founding 32 years ago, GEO Group has turned the racist nightmare of mass incarceration into gold, pushing “law and order” and nativist prison-state policies while crafting deals that charge government (taxpayers) for empty beds. As CMD reported two and a half years ago:

“the GEO Group has profited from federal and state policies that have led to a dramatic rise in incarceration and detention in the United States – an increase of more than 500 percent over the past three decades. In recent years, with crime rates dropping and sentencing reform spreading, GEO Group has found a new way to keep its profits high: many of its contracts contain bed guarantees or ‘lock up quotas’ that require that a state keep prisons full, and put taxpayers on the hook for empty beds….For many years GEO Group participated in the task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that pushed bills that lengthened time in prison, such as so-called ‘truth-in-sentencing’ and ‘three strikes’ legislation, as models for states to adopt across the nation. Today, locking up non-violent illegal immigrants is a new profit center for the firm.”

Currently more than half of the United States’ immigrant detention beds fall under the for-profit management of GEO.

“A Long Rap Sheet of Abuse and Neglect”

That’s a distressing fact since the company that has what the leading criminal justice reform group Grassroots Leadership (GL) calls “a long rap sheet of abuse, neglect, and misconduct inside its facilities.” An in-depth CMD investigation found that “the company’s cost-cutting strategies lead to a vicious cycle where lower wages and benefits for workers, high employee turnover, insufficient training, and under-staffing results in poor oversight and mistreatment of detained persons, increased violence, and riots.” A fall 2014 GL report detailed GEO’s ghoulish track record, which includes repeated incidents of death-in-custody, overcrowding, denial of medical care, extreme isolation, beatings, and de facto slave labor. In 2012 a federal district judge described conditions in a GEO juvenile detention center in Walnut Grove, Mississippi as “a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.” At Walnut Grove as in other GEO Hellholes, juvenile prisoners were endemically raped and pitted against one another in “gladiator-style fights.”

Conditions became so terrible that more than a thousand immigrant prisoners undertook repeated hunger strikes in a GEO detention center in Tacoma, Washington in 2014. As GL reported, “The first hunger strike began on March 7, 2014 at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington. It was a massive resistance involving 1,200 people that lasted 56 days. The strike drew international media attention and prompted Rep. Adam Smith to introduce legislation that sought to improve conditions inside detention centers.”

One of the many disturbances that have erupted in GEO facilities took place in the Central Indiana town of New Castle Indiana nine years ago. Local police and fire departments were called in along with Indiana State Police to quell an uprising sparked when the New Castle police chief tried to discipline prisoners who had just been transported against their will from Arizona (in accord with a “memorandum of understanding” between the company and Arizona’s governor.) The prisoners had been selected for transport for being non-violent and compliant with GEO’s regulations. They were being absurdly punished for obeying the rules. Had they been less obedient in Arizona, they would not have been shipped across the country like chattel.

The Corporate Prison Playbook

Since last fall, GEO has been trying to secure municipal approval to build a sprawling, 800-bed immigrant detention center across the street from Gary’s badly underused airport. In Gary as elsewhere, the company has followed the usual corporate prison playbook: target an economically stressed community and promise “jobs and development.”

It must have figured that the savagely deindustrialized and 84 percent Black city of Gary was a perfect mark. Thirty-two miles south of Chicago, the former leading steelmaking town is plagued by an astronomical poverty rate of 39 percent and a mind-boggling child poverty measure of 61%. “To call Gary a struggling city,” journalist Casey Tolan wrote last December, “is to put it lightly. You can drive down blocks here where every single house is vacant, burned out, or gaping open behind smashed windows. Broadway, the main drag, is lined with big, handsome brick buildings that have every window boarded up.”

It’s a Dickensian, Rust Belt disaster zone on par with Detroit and Camden, New Jersey. The city has lost more than half its population over the last four decades. That’s a big part of why it has an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 abandoned homes, a quarter of its housing stock – a remarkable number in a city of 80,000.

Meanwhile, federal immigration officials in Chicago are already quietly flying detained immigrants back to Mexico on chartered jets leaving from the Gary airport. By GEO’s calculation, the building of a sizeable federal immigrant detention center was overdue in the broad Chicago area.

“We Decided That it was a Moral Issue”

For these and other reasons, GEO probably figured that expansion to Gary would be a slam dunk. If so, GEO was mistaken. When it came with its proposal to the job-starved, poverty-ridden city last fall, the city’s Black Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson was initially supportive. She hailed the boost the projected facility would deliver to the city’s tax base and the 200 jobs it would bring. Those are the standard “public-private partnership” promises.

But then things quickly fell apart for GEO. The prison firm’s Gary profit dreams were dashed by people’s power. The proposal was shot down within a mere twelve days after it was announced. GEO’s plan needed approval from the Gary City Council’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). On November 10th, roughly 100 people crowded into BZA’s hearing room, “chanting slogans and waving signs. The day after the raucous protest,” Tolan reported, “the mayor announced that she had changed her mind and now opposed the proposal. And a few days later, GEO withdrew its request to rezone the property to allow a prison facility.”

GEO was defeated by a diverse protest movement organized by Black activists and clergy, including an exemplary, left-led Black Lives Matter chapter. Together, the multiracial and multi-ethnic Northwest Indiana Interfaith Federation (NIIF), BLM, and a local anti-prison group called 219MIGHT (short for “219 Mass Incarceration GEO Halt Team” [219 being the area code for Northwest Indiana]) raised moral and practical objections to the scheme.

The company’s “strategy was that they thought that Black people would not care,” said Reverend Cheryl Rivera, the NIIF’s Black director. “But the destiny of brown people and black people and disparaged communities are inextricably linked and intertwined,” Rivera added.

“We decided that it was a moral issue…The most morally reprehensible thing for me was that it could be even considered in a place like Gary, where 90% of the population is black – that we would even think of being involved with anything that would target black and brown people.”
“We advocate for an end to the criminalization of people,” said local BLM leader Alicia Nunn last fall. Nunn connected the issue with which BLM is mostly strongly associated – racist police shootings – to the broader human rights problem of racist mass arrest and imprisonment: “Mass incarceration goes right along with police brutality…and you’re dealing with a company that has a nine-page rap sheet of human rights violations.”

Practical Political-Economy Considerations

In defeating the project, the Gary activists pointed to the many disturbances sparked by GEO’s exploitative practices. The anti-GEO coalition ran picket lines outside city meetings where the proposal was considered. It distributed news reports on previous complaints and protests at GEO facilities.

Activists also noted that Gary taxpayers would be on the hook to compensate GEO for empty cells and beds. They publicized GEO’s low-wage policies and the terrible conditions endured by both GEO staff and GEO inmates. They noted that few of the jobs promised to Gary would go to local residents (many if not most of whom will be disqualified for consideration by credit and criminal background checks along with other barriers) and that considerable public resources were likely to be spent on handling problems resulting from the proposed facility. The coalition told local citizens that the jobs created wouldn’t be all that good, wouldn’t be all that available to Gary residents, and wouldn’t be worth the costs.

The costs include the branding of Gary as “a prison city.” That’s a poor match for local real estate and commercial interests who are trying to refashion Gary as a Lake Michigan beach town suitable for middle-class summer excursions.

Even the local building trades unions were persuaded not to support the GEO proposal since the company would build its proposed facility with prefabricated materials brought in from out of state.

A Return Engagement

It was a remarkable and rapid local victory for people’s power, human rights, and moral economy over the soulless agenda of a leading private component of the national and global prison-industrial complex – a company that makes its profits from “the criminalization of people” (Nunn). But it’s not over. It never is. After a recent failed attempt to purchase land (under a different name) for a detention complex name in the nearby town of Hobart, GEO is back, knocking again at Gary’s public doors. The global corporation has found a new local ally: the city’s new specially selected (not elected) council member Herb Smith. A conservative black “law and order” advocate, Smith was granted his seat by the Lake County Democratic Party after a sitting council member resigned last February.

Smith is a longstanding Gary bail bondsman. He is also a full-fledged member of the private prison-industrial complex since he is the owner of ICU Monitoring, an “electronic monitoring and offender management” firm in nearby Merrillville, Indiana. He’s a certified public-private ankle-monitor capitalist and his company, ICU, is suspected of having a contractual relationship with GEO.

Three nights ago, the unelected ankle-shackler smirked while activists chanted “No GEO” during a packed city council meeting

Three days ago, 219MIGHT activist Sam Love reports, a GEO representative interviewed by a prison booster on local radio admitted that the company currently lacks any contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for a facility in Northwest Indiana. If a GEO detention center goes up without an ICE contract, the city’s taxpayers will be on the hook to pay for every empty bed.

Love gives an accurate translation for the GEO’s standard neoliberal “public-private partnership” rhetoric that GEO and its local allies have used in pushing for an immigrant lock-up facility in Gary: “profit will be privatized and capitalized while the costs and misery will be socialized.”

At a ZBA meeting next Tuesday, GEO will ask again for a change from “industrial” to “commercial” zoning on land across from the city’s airport. The change is required if the company is going to be permitted to expand its noxious reach into Gary. The meeting will be held at Gary City Hall, 401 Broadway, at 3 pm on Tuesday, April 12.

The company and its local government allies seem confident of success. According to the Gary City Council GEO will be hosting an “informational meeting” at the Glen Theatre, 20 W, Ridge Road, on April 29th at 5:30 pm.

However one might be voting or not in the US. presidential sweepstakes this year, concerned citizens and activists in the region are strongly encouraged to attend both events. The great democratic and disruptive power of dedicated, day-to-day popular, grassroots organization and protest is required to block GEO in Gary. It’s also required to undo the broader national crime of mass incarceration and countless other terrible elite projects (e.g. the Bakken Pipeline in Iowa) in the current New Gilded Age of savagely unequal, racist, and heavy-handed, arch-repressive neoliberal capitalism.
Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Real or Not, Panama Papers Trigger Political Crises Around the World

Panama Papers revelation triggers political crises around the globe

by Jordan Shilton  - WSWS

7 April 2016

The global fallout from the Panama Papers continued to expand Wednesday, as new revelations about the tax arrangements of British Prime Minister David Cameron increased pressure on his government and other world leaders came under scrutiny.

The release of reports based on 11.5 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca by 100 media outlets around the world in alliance with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has exposed once again the criminal practices at the heart of global capitalism. High profile figures from around the world have been affected, with a total of 72 current and former heads of state cited as having offshore accounts.

A full-scale political crisis continued to deepen in Iceland Wednesday in the wake of the resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson the previous day. The government stated later Tuesday that Gunnlaugsson had only stepped aside temporarily, and would resume his duties at some unspecified time. The revelations implicate broader sections of the ruling elite, including the leader of Gunnlaugsson’s coalition partner, the Independence Party.

Criticism of UK Prime Minister Cameron grew after the Daily Telegraph reported that Blairmore, his father’s offshore firm, moved its office from Panama to Ireland in 2010 to evade examination of its tax affairs. Ireland has notoriously low corporation tax rates, which are rarely paid in full by companies.

Blairmore managed tens of millions of pounds on behalf of wealthy families. According to the Guardian, it has never paid a penny in income tax in the UK during its over 30 years of operations.

The Prime Minister’s office initially responded by declaring the matter a “private affair.” Apparently contradicting earlier statements that Cameron owned no shares in offshore companies, Downing Street issued a carefully worded statement yesterday claiming that the Prime Minister would not enjoy any future benefits from such entities. “There are no offshore funds/trusts which the Prime Minister, Mrs. Cameron or their children will benefit from in future,” a spokesman said.

The Guardian reported that the reference to “offshore firms” may have been chosen because it does not apply to Ireland, even though its tax rates are almost as low as offshore tax havens.

The Panama Papers are merely the tip of the iceberg. As the Wall Street Journal acknowledged yesterday, the offshore industry has “thrived” over recent years. According to the Boston Consulting Group, private wealth directed into tax havens grew by 7 percent in 2014, reaching the remarkable sum of $11 trillion. Between 2009 and 2014, the number of companies registered in the seven largest tax havens, which include the British Virgin Islands and crown dependency of Jersey, rose by 7 percent to 672,500.

This coincides with the period during which governments of all stripes around the world launched an unprecedented assault on the wages and living standards of the working class to pay for the billions made available to bail out the banks in the wake of the global economic meltdown of 2008. While millions of workers around the globe paid for the speculative activities of the financial elite by being plunged into poverty and unemployment, the global financial oligarchy enriched itself still further by stashing additional billions in tax havens.

Some estimates go even higher. The Tax Justice Network, a research and advocacy organization, estimated that between 8 and 13 percent of total global wealth is stored in tax havens, equating to between $21 and $32 trillion. This does not even include onshore domestic tax shelters, such as the states of Delaware and Wyoming in the United States.

Last October, Blackstone Group LP, the world’s largest private equity firm, valued Intertrust NV, a company that sets up and services companies, trusts and investment funds in tax havens, at $1.5 billion in an IPO. Intertrust’s revenue rose by 17 percent last year.

Britain is a major player in the global offshore industry, being second only to Hong Kong in the number of entities engaged in such activities.

The pressure building on the British government was demonstrated when Chancellor George Osbourne broke off a television interview after a reporter repeatedly asked him to clarify whether he had any interests in offshore firms. The Treasury later sought to claim the interview had not been cut short, but that the agreed upon number of questions had been posed.

The revelations have revived a scandal that first broke last July over Osbourne’s involvement in a property deal with a developer based in a tax haven, which netted his family business £6 million.

The first reported police action resulting from the Panama Papers occurred Wednesday afternoon when Swiss authorities raided the offices of the European Football federation UEFA in Nyon. Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported that UEFA sold the rights to some of its competitions to offshore firm Cross Trading in 2006, which subsequently resold the rights for a much higher price. The story implicates current FIFA head Gianni Infantino, who was chief legal officer for UEFA at the time. Infantino recently replaced FIFA President Sep Blatter and was portrayed as a clean pair of hands.

UEFA denied selling the broadcast rights below the market price.

The revelations have also hit political leaders in other countries. Investigations linked to the Panama Papers have been launched in Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Argentinian President Mauricio Macri is accused of involvement in two firms based in the Bahamas and Panama. Macri did not list his involvement with either company when he became mayor of Buenos Aires in 2007 or president last year.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, a close ally of Washington and the NATO powers in their geostrategic offensive against Russia in Eastern Europe, set up a firm in the British Virgin Islands upon becoming president in 2014 to manage his chocolate business. According to opposition politicians, this move deprived the country of millions in unpaid taxes.

Major US figures have been conspicuous by their absence from the lists of clients of Mossack Fonseca. This is primarily due to the fact that many tax havens exist domestically, such as in the state of Delaware, where one office building is home to 285,000 companies.

US President Barack Obama seized on the Panama Papers to portray his administration as an opponent of tax evasion. In a press conference Tuesday, he applauded new regulations put forward by the Treasury Department with the aim of preventing corporate inversions by companies active in the US, a process whereby a firm’s headquarters is moved overseas for tax purposes so as to benefit from tax havens.

“We’ve had another reminder in this big dump of data coming out of Panama that tax avoidance is a big, global problem,” Obama declared.

“It’s not unique to other countries. A lot of it is legal, but that’s exactly the problem. It’s not that they’re breaking the laws, it’s that the laws are so poorly designed.”

Obama’s hand-wringing comes from the head of a government that has done all it can to shield the criminal practices of the financial elite in the wake of the 2008 global financial meltdown, in which US-based firms played the leading role with speculative and outright criminal practices.

The impunity enjoyed by the financial elite allowed them to return to business as usual. As the Wall Street Journal noted yesterday, many local service providers in tax havens were bought up by banks in the wake of 2008, helping consolidate the offshore financial industry.

One of the privately-controlled firms engaged in this highly secretive industry, Citco Group, was compelled to pay $125 million in compensation to investors last year after it emerged it had administered funds for Bernard L. Madoff, who was convicted for running one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history.

Questions have been raised about the involvement of US authorities in prominently featured information targeting Russian oligarchs with close ties to President Vladimir Putin. WikiLeaks alleged yesterday that USAID funded a news story accusing members of Putin’s inner circle for running an offshore tax operation.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for WikiLeaks, also criticized the decision by the ICIJ not to release all of the information, citing “responsible journalism.” “I totally disagree with the overall tone of that,” he told Russia Today. He urged all of the information to be made publicly available.

Panama Paper Tigers: Will Cameron's Clummsy CoverUp Attempts Sink Him?

Cameron’s haven hypocrisy? PM pushed for offshore trusts to be shielded from EU regulation

by RT

7 Apr, 2016

Besieged Prime Minister David Cameron is under fire yet again after a 2013 letter was unearthed showing he shielded offshore trusts from an EU crackdown.

The letter has come to light as the Tory PM faces mounting pressure over his late father Ian Cameron’s offshore trust Blairmore Holdings, details of which were exposed in the Panama Papers leak.

In the 2013 letter to then-European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, Cameron argued that trusts should not be subject to the same transparency rules as companies.


How much are you worth, Dave? Panama Leaks hint at vast personal wealth for Cameron

The EU had planned to publish a centralized register of offshore trusts’ main owners as part of a broad crackdown on secretive financial practices.

Cameron’s letter, unearthed by the Financial Times on Thursday, said an important distinction must be drawn between different financial entities.

“It is clearly important we recognize the important differences between companies and trusts … This means that the solution for addressing the potential misuse of companies – such as central public registries – may well not be appropriate generally,” Cameron wrote.

The PM’s alleged links to the tax dodging practices of Blairmore Holdings are particularly damaging given he has strived to appear a champion of fair taxation domestically.

In September 2015 he called for more transparency and urged territories like the Cayman Islands to create a public register of financial interests.

He told the Jamaican parliament at the time he wanted to “break the business model of stealing money and hiding it in places where it can’t be seen – transparency is the answer.”

He claimed he had “taken the lead” in making sure “terrorists, tax-avoiders, money launderers and criminals have nowhere to hide their ill-gotten gains.”

"Non-Violent" BDS Support and "Civilian Elimination"

Non-violent BDS Should Be Welcomed, Not Condemned

by Ramzy Baroud -

April 5, 2016

A thousand Israelis and their supporters gathered in Jerusalem’s International Convention Center on March 28 at a conference aimed at combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

The conference was a display of “fear, paranoia, anger and determination,” as described by Antony Loewenstein, and featured top government officials, members of the oppositions and a strange conglomerate of guests, including celebrity has-beens like Roseanne Barr.

Statements made at the conference were predictably frightening and antagonistic – they amounted to nothing more than a display of the language of blood and vengeance that people have grown accustomed to within the Israeli political discourse.

One of the most alarming of the statements was made by Israeli Minister of Transportation, Israel Katz, who called for the “focused civilian elimination of the leadership of BDS.”

We need to know how “to act against them, how to isolate them, also to transfer information to intelligence agents around the world, and other agents. We have to understand that there is a battle here. It is wrapped in many covers,” Katz said.

Barr on the other hand, called for nuclear bombing the University of California-Davis following its students’ support of BDS.

One must certainly have no illusions regarding the ferocity of the fight ahead - this is the nature of conflict between any popular movement, the objective of which is to put pressure on a state that violates international law with impunity, and a government that sees itself above and in no way bound by the law.

The impetus behind the antagonism faced by the BDS movement is that it has in fact matured in its message and grown in size with its primary objective clear-cut - Israel, sooner or later would see BDS as a threat, and would move decisively to combat it.

However, one can certainly not be oblivious to the internal challenges faced by BDS itself. While the movement is largely de-centralized, and local decisions are left to the numerous branches located throughout the world, speaking in one voice is a certain challenge. Of course, there are the guiding principles, but it remains essential to overcome the practical hindrances to an honest and transparent democratic dialogue in order to keep the movement strong and forward thinking.

BDS was initiated after repeated calls from Palestinian civil society, especially in 2004 and 2005 to boycott Israel for its crimes against Palestinians, its violations of international law, its illegal occupation and its discriminatory, racially-motivated policies. The call found receptive audiences across the world, and over the last decade it became the primary platform, if not rally-cry for pro-Palestine activists confronting Israel.

BDS did not expand so significantly in recent years only because of its own organization and successful branding. One cannot ignore the multiple crimes carried out by the Israeli army and armed Jewish settlers since then. One cannot overlook the many racist laws passed by the Israeli Knesset, targeting the country’s minorities. With every killing, every additional day of siege on Gaza, every war, and every abhorrent statement made by an Israeli official, BDS grew - significantly.

BDS owes much of its success to an effective strategy that is predicated on harnessing the energy of civil society, but also to the fact that Israel is relentless in demonstrating the need for global action, to end the occupation, the discrimination and the impunity of an army that killed much too many Palestinians.

Yet, not until recently did Israelis and their supporters begin viewing BDS with alarm, if not real concern. In the past, that job was left to Zionist student groupings in Western campuses. But they failed, and terribly so, to stem the flow of the pro-Palestine sentiments in US-Western campuses. As of last year, a large anti-BDS movement began forming with the sole purpose of crushing the budding BDS movement, but to no avail.

The ‘big guns’ were summoned by two massively rich Zionists, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban. They invited fellow millionaires to a June 2015 conference in Las Vegas in order to raise funds for an anti-BDS movement. Those invited, mostly rightwing zealots, went to the Venetian hotel, (also owned by Adelson) with the understanding that a minimal acceptable donation is one million dollars.

Anti-BDS activists and government officials who travelled to Las Vegas for the event were promised by an Israeli-American businessmen, Adam Milstein that they “no longer have to worry about financing and fundraising. You just need to be united.”

Galvanizing on the momentum, Hillary Clinton, who is now leading in her party’s primaries as a precursor for presidential elections in November, sent Saban a letter that could serve as a glaring example of a politician groveling to a rich funder with no regard for morality or self-respect:

Under the letter heading, ‘Hilary for America,’ she wrote to "express her alarm" over BDS, insisting that countering the movement must become a ‘priority’. "I am seeking your advice on how we can work together to reverse this trend," she wrote.

“As a Senator and a Secretary of State, I saw how crucial it is for America to defend Israel at every turn. I have opposed dozens of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, the Human Rights Council and other international organizations," she boasted, going as far as condemning the Goldstone Report which accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.

Clinton is not alone. In June 2015, soon after the anti-BDS millionaires’ club concluded its gathering in Las Vegas, President Barack Obama signed into law a measure specifically designed to combat BDS.

“The Trade Promotion Authority legislation .. contained the anti-BDS provisions, which make rejection of the phenomenon a top priority for US negotiators as they work on a more distant free trade agreement with the European Union,” the Times of Israel reported.

Within months, the flood-gates had opened, and a foray of BDS condemnations followed. Yet, this was largely a farce. The calls from Western governments, originating from the UK, the US, Canada and others to criminalize the boycott of Israel have hardly slowed down the momentum of the movement. On the contrary, it has accelerated it.

History has taught us that criminalizing civil society and outlawing ideas, especially those that are guided by moral principles, is never a good idea. Nor is calling for ‘eliminating’ civilian society activists and bombing their universities.

The only sensible strategy to combat BDS is one that not a single speaker in the anti-BDS gatherings had raised: ending the very criminal and racist policies that inspired BDS in the first place.

BDS has, thus far, been the most successful strategy and tactic to support Palestinian steadfastness while, at the same time, holding Israel accountable for its progressively worsening policies of apartheid.

International pressure is building up, placing the ball firmly in the Israeli court, and no amount of bombs or firepower can ever solve Israel’s quandary this time.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His books include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is:

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Leaks and Hidden Agendas: "Panama Papers" Mirror Previous Agitprop "Leak"

History of the Panama Papers - Offshore Banking Havens: Hidden Agenda behind the 2013 Operation “Offshore Leaks”?

by Valentin Katasonov and Prof Michel Chossudovsky - Global Research, Strategic Culture Foundation

April 05, 2016

Introduction by Michel Chossudovsky

The following article by Prof. Valentin Katasonov, a distinguished Russian economist was published three years ago by the Strategic Culture Foundation and Global Research.

The planning of the Panama Papers leaks on April 4, 2016 bears a canny resemblance, to a previous leak entitled Operation Offshore Leaks which was also implemented on April 4th (ie. exactly three years ago April 4, 2013) by the same consortium of international journalists (ICIJ).

ICIJ website, dated April 3, 2013, released to media on April 4

Why Did they Publish the Release on the same day, April 4th?

Valentin Katasonov describes the April 4, 2013 Offshore Leak as “a planned operation on a global scale”, with a simultaneous release by “the leading media companies of a variety of countries almost simultaneously issued a sensational news story claiming that an organisation called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has a rich database on offshore companies and their clients.”

What was the Hidden Agenda? 

The overall volume of files at ICIJ’s disposal exceeds 260 gigabytes… That is 160 times more information than the embassy reports made public by Wikileaks in 2010… The ICIJ files consist of more than 2.5 million documents: the registration data of 122,000 offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands; lists of people who have made use of offshore companies; copies of personal documents including passports; correspondence; and information on banking transactions and other databases related to world-class politicians and businessmen, major companies and banks. The documents have a variety of dates, the very earliest of which came into existence 30 years ago. The names of 130,000 people from 170 countriesare also mentioned in the documents. (Katsanov, April 2013),

Now compare that April 2013 quote to the recent SudDeutsche Zeitung writeup. The April 4, 2016 release is of a similar nature to that of April 4, 2013:

The Panama Papers include approximately 11.5 million documents – more than the combined total of the Wikileaks Cablegate, Offshore Leaks, Lux Leaks, and Swiss Leaks. The data primarily comprises e-mails, pdf files, photo files, and excerpts of an internal Mossack Fonseca database. It covers a period spanning from the 1970s to the spring of 2016. (Panama Papers, 4 July 2016)

Deja Vu?

The History of this project is carefully described in Katasonov’s article. The same protagonists on April 4th 2013, the BBC, The Guardian, etc:

“Offshore Leaks a planned operation ….

The bulk of the work was carried out in the field. It turns out that the project’s most prominent external participants were the British Broadcasting Corporation and the British newspaper The Guardian.”

As pointed out by Katasonov, “the main targets are not the offshore companies” which have direct links to Citibank, HSBC, UBS, Deutsche Bank, et al, “but to individual oligarchs, politicians and government officials.”

Katasanov confirms that:

At the end of 2012, a tiny fragment from the database on offshore companies (DOC) was published which related to a dozen offshore companies and their management structures. It was an all-powerful delayed-action mine.

The third stage began early in April 2013. Separate fragments of the database were made public through the media of a variety of countries. In each country, there were several «authorised» media companies that were selected. …

The political personalities mentioned in Katasonov’s article pertaining to the April 4, 2013 offshore leak are as follows:

In connection with the offshore scandal, a number of people have had their cover blown in the press, including: the campaign treasurer for French President François Hollande, Jean-Jacques Augier; Mongolia’s former Finance minister, Bayartsogt Sangajav; Venezuela Army General José Eliécer Pinto Gutiérrez; two sons of former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, Tomás and Geronimo; the daughter of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc; the Sheikh of Kuwait Sabah Jaber al-Ali al-Sabah; a leading art collector, Spanish Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza; the former wife of oil trader Marc Rich, Denise Rich; and British millionaire Scot Young, who has been convicted of fraud. The media also mentioned Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev along with members of his family, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, Kazakh businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov, and co-owner of the company RosUkrEnergo, Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash.

For a historical review of the Offshore Leak and the Panama Papers, read the April 2013 article by Prof. Valentin Katasonov below.

Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research Editor, April 5, 2016

* * *

Tax Free Offshore Banking Havens: Hidden Agenda behind Operation “Offshore Leaks”?

by Valentin Katasonov - Strategic Culture Foundation and Global Research

April 17, 2013

From the beginning of April this year, the subject of «Offshore leaks» has become a favourite with the world’s media. Even the issue of Cyprus has paled in significance. Loosely speaking, «Offshore leaks» can be defined as the leakage of sensitive information about offshore companies and their clients.

Offshore leaks is a planned operation

We are talking about a planned operation on a global scale. On 4 April, the leading media companies of a variety of countries almost simultaneously issued a sensational news story claiming that an organisation called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has a rich database on offshore companies and their clients. The overall volume of files at ICIJ’s disposal exceeds 260 gigabytes… That is 160 times more information than the embassy reports made public by Wikileaks in 2010… The ICIJ files consist of more than 2.5 million documents: the registration data of 122,000 offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands; lists of people who have made use of offshore companies; copies of personal documents including passports; correspondence; and information on banking transactions and other databases related to world-class politicians and businessmen, major companies and banks. The documents have a variety of dates, the very earliest of which came into existence 30 years ago. The names of 130,000 people from 170 countriesare also mentioned in the documents.

The first phase of the operation involved an anonymous person collecting raw data on offshore companies. We do not know how long they collected the information for or which methods were used to obtain the information. It is possible that the ICIJ and individual journalists know the answers to these questions, but they are keeping silent. They give one answer: we cannot jeopardise our informant. It should be noted, however, that it would have been practically impossible for a single person to have obtained such a large amount of information. Incidentally, the idea that it was a lone person has already appeared in the press. It is exactly the same wild assumption as the idea that 11 September 2001 was the work of a group of terrorists under the command of Bin Laden.

The second phase began in January 2012, when the database on offshore companies was anonymously passed on to the organisation ICIJ. It was a huge array of weakly-structured and weakly-organised information. In fact, the ICIJ then had to set about reorganising this half-finished information. At this stage, the ICIJ used the media capabilities of a number of countries, as well as their own journalists. The bulk of the work was carried out in the field. It turns out that the project’s most prominent external participants were the British Broadcasting Corporation and the British newspaper The Guardian. During the course of the work, journalists involved in the project added new information to the data obtained from the anonymous source. Programmers and IT specialists from the US, Great Britain and Costa Rica were also involved. At this stage, the operation was given the official name: «Secrecy For Sale: Inside The Global Offshore Money Maze». At this point, the work was not only not hidden, it was even advertised in the media. At the end of 2012, a tiny fragment from the database on offshore companies (DOC) was published which related to a dozen offshore companies and their management structures. It was an all-powerful delayed-action mine.

The third stage began early in April 2013. Separate fragments of the database were made public through the media of a variety of countries. In each country, there were several «authorised» media companies that were selected. In Russia, for example, the «authorised» media companies were Vedomosti and Novaya Gazeta. It is remarkable that as the organisation holding the DOC, the ICIJ prohibited those national media companies that had use of the DOC from passing on any of the database’s documents to law-enforcement agencies or other authoritative bodies in their own countries. Apparently, there is a risk that their informants could be exposed. There has already been a report that the German media refused to provide information on local tax evaders mentioned in the documents released at the beginning of April to the appropriate authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The third stage, involving the measured release of information from the DOC, could last for many years. However, the first sections of this «explosive information» could already lead to a revolutionary upheaval of the current world order.

Offshore leaks: goals, aims and motives

Many people are asking a simple question: what are the operation’s goals?

There is the official goal referred to by the ICIJ, of course. This is the battle with offshore companies that have become a «black hole» in the economy, an insurmountable obstacle to social and economic development.

It is difficult to dispute the fact that the process of the «offshoreisation» of the global economy has gone too far. The most recent valuations of the assets hidden in the shadows of offshore companies are between 21 and 32 trillion dollars (almost double the global GDP). Measured on a global scale, annual losses to state budgets alone as a result of offshore company clients avoiding taxes amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. As of 2011, losses to the US budget from the non-payment of taxes are estimated at 345 billion dollars, including 100 billion dollars as a result of tax evaders using offshore companies. In the European Union, losses are reaching 1 trillion euros through the use of tax optimisation schemes and a flagrant refusal to pay taxes. It is not known how much of this can be put down to the use of offshore companies, however. On the basis of America’s percentage ratio, we get 290 billion euros, or at least 350 billion dollars. Altogether, annual tax losses to the EU and the US as a result of offshore «loopholes» amount to nearly 450 billion dollars.

Many believe that the battle with offshore companies is just an excuse to cover up other aims. An overview of the world’s media shows that in many of the reports, the main targets are not the offshore companies as such, but individual oligarchs, politicians and government officials. Individual countries are also cited as «targets». World-renowned banks, transnational corporations and financial groups are also sometimes cited.

One theory behind the operation’s true motives is that it is specifically aimed at dealing a blow to certain offshore companies in order to outrun the money and clients in a small group of «select» and «untouchable» offshore companies. Note that almost all of the documents in the DOC relate to an offshore territory called the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Owing to a high level of confidentiality regarding information on company owners, this area is one of the most reliable and popular offshore territories. Since 1984, when the British overseas territory declared itself a «tax haven», the islands have sold more than one million companies, the true owners of which have never been revealed. As well as the BVI, other offshore territories are mentioned in the ICIJ press release, including Singapore, Hong Kong and the Cook Islands. However, it should be emphasised that they are mentioned only insofar as they serve as «offshoots» of the British Virgin Islands.

There are also other theories behind the operation’s true goals: not to «blitz» a particular offshore company, but to stabilise the global economy as a whole, to cause a political crisis in certain countries and, ultimately, to move the world into a state of controlled chaos. Moreover, the operation «Offshore leaks» is not regarded as self-contained, but as part of a much larger, global plan. In which case, operation «Offshore leaks» is a logical continuation of the operation to undermine the banking system of the offshore island of Cyprus.

Of course, one can only judge the aims of operation «Offshore leaks» hypothetically. The most important organisation involved in the project, ICIJ, itself raises a number of questions. There is little information about it. All that is known is that it was established in 1997, its headquarters are situated in Washington and it includes nearly 160 journalists from 60 countries (88 journalists from 46 countries were involved in operation «Offshore leaks»).ICIJ was created as a project of the large non-profit organisation Center for Public Integrity (CPI). The Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation act as sponsors of CPI. All of this inclines one to think that the operation really does have global aims.

The central characters of «Offshore leaks»

In the first batch of materials published in the media, we see all kinds of people. They are able to appear in the documents under a variety of titles: beneficiary, shareholder, proprietor, owner, recipient of «trust services», director, owner, co-owner, principal etc. They are all nevertheless united by the fact that they are «tax evaders». The list includes the names of politicians and government officials, businessmen and speculators, members of wealthy families and bankers from a variety of countries – the USA, Great Britain, France, Canada and Germany to Russia, the Ukraine, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Iran, Indonesia, India and the Philippines. The Guardian points out that according to the documentation, the largest number of offshore company owners are located in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Russian Federation and former Soviet republics. The list also includes the names of 4,000 US citizens.

In connection with the offshore scandal, a number of people have had their cover blown in the press, including: the campaign treasurer for French President François Hollande, Jean-Jacques Augier; Mongolia’s former Finance minister, Bayartsogt Sangajav; Venezuela Army General José Eliécer Pinto Gutiérrez; two sons of former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, Tomás and Geronimo; the daughter of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc; the Sheikh of Kuwait Sabah Jaber al-Ali al-Sabah; a leading art collector, Spanish Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza; the former wife of oil trader Marc Rich, Denise Rich; and British millionaire Scot Young, who has been convicted of fraud. The media also mentioned Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev along with members of his family, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, Kazakh businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov, and co-owner of the company RosUkrEnergo, Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash.

As well as offshore companies and individuals, the documents also mentioned various intermediaries who act like a kind of «pilot» for individuals and companies who find themselves in the intricate maze of tax havens. The different intermediaries include legal firms, trust funds, banks, «construction» companies and so on. The intermediaries sometimes act as beneficiaries, but only interim ones. These interim beneficiaries sometimes form complex chains in order to safely keep the real owner, the ultimate beneficiary, a secret. As for the role of banks in offshore schemes, the German banking giant Deutsche Bank, the American company JP Morgan and the Swiss companies UBS and Clariden are the most active, according to ICIJ.

Several days have passed since the first volley of gunfire from «Offshore leaks». Government and political figures in a number of countries have had time to respond. The internal revenue services and law-enforcement agencies in Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, India and Greece have declared that they will be looking into the issue of checking the published facts that relate to their own citizens. Luxembourg’s finance minister, meanwhile, has declared that he is ready to cooperate with other EU countries regarding the exchange of information on banks’ clients who are avoiding paying taxes.

This means that the main country for offshore banking in continental Europe has made it clear it is ready, on the heels of Switzerland, to begin dismantling its institution of banking secrecy. The Austrian government is the only one that has decided to go against the flow. It has appeased the clients of Austrian banks by announcing that it does not intend to hand them over to the tax authorities of other countries.

Professor Vladimir Katasonov is an Associate Member of the Russian Academy of Economic Science and Business
The original source of this article is Strategic Culture Foundation
Copyright © Valentin Katasonov and Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Strategic Culture Foundation, 2016

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Stuart Herzog, Ken Boon, Patrick Henningsen, Janine Bandcroft Apr. 6, 2016

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

April 6, 2016 

Looking around the City of Victoria, it doesn't take a lot of insight to conclude: This place is humming! Old houses in the suburbs, and once venerable buildings in the city proper, are turning into holes in the ground; nesting pots for steel and glass condos sprouting uptown and down.

The increasing human population, both resident and transient, requires more room too; room to move into and room to get around.

Making room for those people's in-migration is, naturally, just what made this place desirable in the first place; the remnant "natural elements" within the city - that would be developer-speak for trees.

Listen. Hear.
According to a Habitat Acquisition Trust report of 2013, Victoria lost the equivalent of 12 Beacon Hill Parks between 2005 and 2011; and that was before things got seriously crazy around here.

Now, another stand of trees is slated for the axe to accommodate the ever more, more, more of a Garden City in full boom...

Stuart Herzog is the long-time, Victoria-based environmental and social justice advocate currently coordinating the Victoria Citizens Action Network, a coalition of groups and individuals coming together to work on issues effecting our city and region. Right now they're focused on BC Transit's proposal to clearcut the west side of Douglas Street between Hillside and Tolmie.

Stuart Herzog in the first segment.

And; Ken Boon is a farmer in the Peace Valley, and President of the Peace Valley Landowner Association. He's in court today in Vancouver, trying to get in the path of Christy Clark's Site-C dam.

Ken Boon taking Site-C to court in the second segment.

And; host to untold hundreds of thousands of refugees from Middle East wars waged by the West, tiny Lebanon is straining at the brink of national viability; and yet somehow it's managing to cope. But, that may not last, as it increasingly appears Lebanon will be next on the ISIS hit-list.

Patrick Henningsen is a freelance journalist and co-founder of the online news site, 21st Century wire, launched during the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Summit. Patrick's geopolitical analyses and commentaries are featured online at RT and Al Jazeera, and of course at 21Wire. I spoke to Patrick last in the wake of the Paris attacks; he's in Beirut now, and we'll try reach him to get a sense of life today in what was once called "The Paris of the Middle East."

Patrick Henningsen in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us news of some of what's good to do in and around our town in the coming week, and beyond. But first, Stuart Herzog and a bus lane too far for one Victoria neighbourhood.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:
G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Site-C Fight Not Finished



April 4, 2016

Upcoming Event: Please Promote!

April 6, Royal BC Museum, noon

Biologists and other experts from BC take on a bio blitz to document the flora and fauna of the Peace River region. Presented by Sarah Cox and RBCM Natural History Curatorial and Collections Staff.


Peace Valley Landowners in Court Today and Tomorrow

"A group of landowners is back in court to appeal the Site C dam. The group will argue the province should not have given the green light for the $8.8 billion hydroelectric project.”

 Check out the audio clip too!

First Nations File New Court Case

The West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation have filed an appeal of the main water licences for the Site C Project with the Environmental Appeal Board.

Not an April Fools Joke: BC Hydro's Bizarre, Multi-Million Dollar Boondoggle to Save Fish from Site C Dam

Sarah Cox continues her excellent reporting on Site C for DeSmog. "In a scenario that sounds like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, bull trout and other fish will travel in trucks past the Site C dam  for 100 years as part of BC Hydro’s strategy to save the threatened fish species from disappearing from the Peace River.”

Steamed about Site C? Geothermal is a Real Alternative

"Geothermal energy offers a low-cost, clean and viable alternative to the $8 billion Site C dam proposed for the Peace River, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA). The report, Geothermal Energy: The Renewable and Cost Effective Alternative to Site C , estimates that geothermal power would ring in at about $73 per megawatt-hour (MWh). BC Hydro has estimated the cost of Site C at $83 per MWh.

The report also says the proposed geothermal plants could be built for approximately $3.3 billion, less than half the cost of the Site C dam.”

And as always: Online actions

· Sierra Club BC’s letter-writing action to the federal government:

· Amnesty’s online petition to the federal and provincial governments now has more than 33,500 signatures:

Also take action online at:



Donate to the court cases:

Donations to support the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations in their legal challenge to the Site C dam can be made through RAVEN Trust and will be matched:

Joint NGO letter to Prime Minister Trudeau:

New organizations are most welcome to endorse:

Follow the campaign: Facebook
Twitter Website

Andrea Morison, BA, MA
Peace Valley Environment Association
PO Box 6062
Fort St. John, BC V1J 4H6

Mossak Fonseca "Leaks" and a Blackmail Bonanza

Selective Leaks Of The #PanamaPapers Create Huge Blackmail Potential

by Moon of Alabama

April 5, 2016

A real leak of data from a law firm in Panama would be very interesting. Many rich people and/or politicians hide money in shell companies that such firms in Panama provide. But the current heavily promoted "leak" of such data to several NATO supporting news organization and a US government financed "Non Government Organization" is just a lame attempt to smear some people the U.S. empire dislikes. It also creates a huge blackmail opportunity by NOT publishing certain data in return for this or that desired favor.

Already some 16 month ago Ken Silverstein reported for Vice on a big shady shell company provider, Mossak Fonseca in Panama. (Pierre Omidyar's Intercept, for which Silverstein was then working, refused to publish the piece.) Yves Smith published several big stories about the Mossak Fonseca money laundering business. Silverstein also repeated the well known fact that Rami Makhlouf, a rich cousin of the Syrian president Assad, had some money hidden in Mossak Fonseca shell companies. He explains:

To conduct business, shell companies like Drex need a registered agent, sometimes an attorney, who files the required incorporation papers and whose office usually serves as the shell's address. This process creates a layer between the shell and its owner, especially if the dummy company is filed in a secrecy haven where ownership information is guarded behind an impenetrable wall of laws and regulations. In Makhlouf's case—and, I discovered, in the case of various other crooked businessmen and international gangsters—the organization that helped incorporate his shell company and shield it from international scrutiny was a law firm called Mossack Fonseca, which had served as Drex's registered agent from July 4, 2000, to late 2011.

A year ago someone provided tons of data from Mossak Fonseca to a German newpaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The Munich daily is politically on the center right and staunchly pro NATO. It cooperates with the Guardian, the BBC, Le Monde, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and some other news organization who are all known supporters of the establishment.

The Sueddeutsche claims that the "leaked" data is about some 214,000 shell companies and 14,000 Mossak Fonseca clients. There is surely a lot of hidden dirt in there. How many U.S. Senators are involved in such companies? Which European Union politicians? What are the big Wall Street banks and hedge funds hiding in Panama? Oh, sorry. The Sueddeutsche and its partners will not answer those questions. Here is how they "analyzed" the data:

The journalists compiled lists of important politicians, international criminals, and well-known professional athletes, among others. The digital processing made it possible to then search the leak for the names on these lists. The "party donations scandal" list contained 130 names, and the UN sanctions list more than 600. In just a few minutes, the powerful search algorithm compared the lists with the 11.5 million documents.

For each name found, a detailed research process was initiated that posed the following questions: what is this person’s role in the network of companies? Where does the money come from? Where is it going? Is this structure legal?

Essentially the Sueddeutsche compiled a list of known criminals and people and organizations the U.S. dislikes and cross checked them with the "leaked" database. Selected hits were then further evaluated. The outcome are stories like the annual attempt to smear the Russian president Putin, who is not even mentioned in the Mossak Fonseca data, accusations against various people of the soccer association FIFA, much disliked by the U.S., and a few mentions of other miscreants of minor relevancy.

There is no story about any U.S. person, none at all, nor about any important NATO politician. The highest political "casualty" so far is the irrelevant Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson who, together with his wife, owned one of the shell companies. There is no evidence that the ownership or the money held by that company were illegal.

So where is the beef?

As former UK ambassador Craig Murray writes, the beef (if there is any at all) is in what is hidden by the organizations that manage the "leak":

The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”

What do you expect? The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include
  • Ford Foundation
  • Carnegie Endowment
  • Rockefeller Family Fund
  • W K Kellogg Foundation
  • Open Society Foundation (Soros)

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is part of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which is financed by the U.S. government through USAID.

The "leak" is of data selected by U.S. friendly organization out of a database, likely obtained by U.S. secret services, which can be assumed to include much dirt about "western" persons and organizations.

To only publish very selected data from the "leaked" data has two purposes:

  • It smears various "enemies of the empire" even if only by association like the presidents Putin and Assad.
  • It lets other important people, those mentioned in the database but not yet published about, know that the U.S. or its "media partner" can, at any time, expose their dirty laundry to the public. It is thereby a perfect blackmailing instrument.

The engineered "leak" of the "Panama Papers" is a limited hangout designed to incriminate a few people and organization the U.S. dislikes. It is also a demonstration of the "torture tools" to the people who did business with Mossak Fonseca but have not (yet) been published about. They are now in the hands of those who control the database. They will have to do as demanded or else ...

Monday, April 04, 2016

Security and Exchange Commission ‘Actively Exploring’ Blockchain

US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) ‘Actively Exploring’ Blockchain Regulation

by Richard Kastelein - BlockChain News

April 4, 2016

The chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Mary Jo White has publicly revealed the US Federal regulatory agency’s plans for potential Blockchain controls at a recent Rock Center for Corporate Governance event:

“Blockchain technology has the potential to modernize, simplify, or even potentially replace, current trading and clearing and settlement operations. As you know, blockchain or distributed ledger is a database comprised of unchangeable transaction data in packages called blocks; each block in the chain is a record of transactions and contains information about the previous transactions. We are closely monitoring the proliferation of this technology and already addressing it in certain contexts. For example, Corporation Finance staff recently reviewed the registration statement of a company seeking to offer and sell digital securities, eliminating the need for intermediaries and allowing settlement on a nearly instantaneous basis,” said White.
“One key regulatory issue is whether blockchain applications require registration under existing Commission regulatory regimes, such as those for transfer agents or clearing agencies. We are actively exploring these issues and their implications. Our Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Concept Release on transfer agent regulations issued last December, for example, asked for public comment on the use of blockchain technology by transfer agents and how such systems fit within federal securities regulations. The insight from the comment process will help us evaluate how to best regulate these new innovations, and we encourage comment from all constituents,” she added.

The Rock Center for Corporate Governance is a joint initiative of Stanford Law School and Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Colonial Oversight: Puerto Rico at 118

Financial Oversight and Colonialism in Puerto Rico

by Matt Peppe - Just the Facts

April 3, 2016

118 years after U.S. troops landed at Guánica, Puerto Rico, the liberal political site the New Republic asks, "Why Are We Colonizing Puerto Rico?"

The occasion for this comically tardy acknowledgment of Puerto Rico's colonial status is a Republican proposal to deal with the island's $72 billion debt problem by allowing a cabal of unelected technocrats carry out austerity measures against the will of the Puerto Rican people.

Or, as the bill puts it:

"To establish an Oversight Board to assist the Government of Puerto Rico ... in managing its public finances."

The Republican plan most certainly would "spell disaster for vulnerable Puerto Rican citizens, and create a bonanza for private corporations looking to take over public functions," as David Dayen writes in the New Republic piece. But Dayen is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

As I reported recently, vulnerable Puerto Ricans are already facing disaster in the form of cuts to social programs and oppressive increases in taxes. Private corporations have already taken over public functions, including the island's largest airport and its largest highway. Former Governor Luis Fortuño created the Public Private Partnership Authority to allow the fire sale of public assets to corporate vultures nearly seven years ago.

Alternative plans have been advanced in the Senate and the Obama administration. Both of these would allow restructuring of Puerto Rico's debt, which the House Republican plan would not. While the Republican legislative proposal for Puerto Rico is vastly inferior to either of the other options, neither the Democratic Senate plan nor the White House plan would be fair to Puerto Rico's residents.

The Senate plan would grant priority for pensions over bondholders. This would directly challenge the outrageous clause in Puerto Rico's colonial Constitution which mandates that if revenues are ever insufficient to cover appropriations, the interest on public debt must be paid before anything else.

The plan introduced by New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez would also grant Puerto Rico tax credits and address lower distributions to Puerto Ricans of Medicare and Medicaid funds they contribute to through payroll taxes. The White House also submitted a proposal for restructuring all of Puerto Rico's debt that would grant similar protections as Chapter 9 without formal bankruptcy proceedings.

The catch is that both the Senate and White House plans, like the House Republican one, would include a financial board to oversee (read: dictate) economic policy. Despite proclamations that the board would function in merely an advisory role, there is no doubt that in practice they would serve the same purpose as all unaccountable technocrats: implementing structural adjustment and slashing social spending, policies that populations would never submit to willingly through their own freely elected representatives.

Dayen laments that an oversight board "effectively moves the capital of Puerto Rico from San Juan to Washington. The discussion draft proposes a war on self-government."

It's unclear whether Dayen is entirely ignorant of Puerto Rico's history, or whether he is cynically implying that U.S. control over Puerto Rico for more than a century has actually been based on a disinterested desire to help people while denying them the democratic rights it grants to citizens in the incorporated states.

Regardless of which U.S. government "solution" to Puerto Rico's financial crisis is carried out, Puerto Ricans will not be losing any sovereignty over affairs they previously controlled on their own. Since the invasion of 1898, the United States has claimed sovereignty over the island. The people of Puerto Rico are unable to make foreign policy, enter into trade agreements, control their borders, issue tariffs, or provide universal public health care.

Though Puerto Rico's political structure was modified in 1952 with the passage of a new Constitution which created a nominal Commonwealth, the island's political status remained equivalent to what it had been for the previous half century: a colony of the United States without self-determination.

Puerto Ricans cannot vote for President of the United States, nor elect their own representatives to Congress. (They do elect a Resident Commissioner, but the position is non-voting.) They are unable to change their political status. That right is reserved for the U.S. Congress. It is a political arrangement without even the pretension of consent of the governed.

The U.S. courts already play the same role that an oversight board would play in dictate political and economic policy. Their decisions for the island are based on a legal system developed and maintained without any input from the Puerto Rican people themselves or regard for their interests. Puerto Rico's political system and its laws must fit within the framework of the U.S. Constitution, which they have no ability to amend.

Recently the Puerto Rican government implemented a "Walmart tax" on big-box retailers. The special tax would apply to businesses with revenue of more than $2.75 billion. Hugely profitable foreign companies, who send most of their earnings to investors on the mainland, would thereby face a greater responsibility for contributing to the territory's coffers. This would in turn alleviate the financial burden on working people and local businesses in Puerto Rico.

But a judge in the United States District Court in Puerto Rico struck down the tax last week as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause prohibits states from giving advantages to their own businesses at the expense of those located in other states. Puerto Rico, which is not even a state, must give corporations like Walmart the same unfettered access to its domestic markets as companies owned and operated by locals.

As I have written before, this directly subverts Puerto Rico's self-sufficiency. Several years ago, a federal judge sided with milk processors and blocked Puerto Rico from enforcing regulations that allowed locally produced milk to be directed to a state-run company to produce dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and UHT milk, and determined how to divide up the proceeds of milk sales between producers and distributors. The decision struck a blow against the viability of Puerto Rico's dairy industry, one of the only successful industries producing foodstuffs locally for the population.

While restructuring Puerto Rico's debt is imperative and would help temporarily alleviate the humanitarian and economic crisis that has been well underway for a decade, it would be a band-aid that would not even address the fundamental issue at its root. Proposals to deal with Puerto Rico's debt problem without ending colonialism are distractions from the U.S. government's ongoing exploitation and subjugation of the Puerto Rican people.

Matt Peppe writes the Just the Facts blog. He can be reached on Facebook and Twitter or by email at