Caitlin Mayo is a freshman nursing major.
The leak of 11.5 million financial and legal documents to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has sent ripples throughout the political world. In what is perhaps the biggest leak of the decade, about 1500 times larger than Wikileaks in 2010, the Panama Papers provide evidence that points to the corrupt practice of hiding assets in tax havens by some of the world’s most influential people through the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Among the accused are 140 politicians and public officials from around the world, including 12 current and former world leaders.
The ramifications of the leak are astounding. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is leaving the country after calls for his resignation. Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson has stepped down after accusations of concealing millions of dollars of family assets with his wife. FIFA ethics lawyer Juan Pedro Damiana has been placed under internal investigation. Panama finds itself in a difficult position, with the French government listing the Latin American country as failing to cooperate over preventing tax evasion. More consequences are sure to follow, especially as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) continues to work through scrutinizing the leaked documents.
Though the Panama Papers have considerably damaged the trust and reputations that people in power–who are mentioned in the documents–have built with their constituents, a revelation from this leak is the amount of damage and blatant injustice that has occurred through these offenses. Money laundering, tax evasion, and financial dishonesty illegal is not a victimless crime.
Developing countries where these offshore companies are located are being used for their resources and are seeing no return in allowing these malpracticing companies into their borders. As ICIJ reports, this has been the case for Uganda, where a company has evaded $400 million worth of taxes, more than the country’s health budget. The impoverished nation continues to face low life expectancy, high infant mortality, and a scarcity of resources to provide proper healthcare for its citizens. The practice of money laundering through the legal services of Mossack Fonseca has been an enabler for a host of illegalities, such as fraud, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, further tax evasion, and supplying fuel to the Syrian Assad regime, which according to the Huffington Post, is responsible for terrorizing Syrian towns and cities.
The recently accused are simply inexcusable. In the coming months, as more of the documents are brought to light, we will see more investigation, and hopefully, more action to provide justice for the those facing these transgressions.
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