Recently, a leak of 13.4 million documents showed the scale of an offshore empire that involved a large number of the “rich and famous” that includes everyone from the Queen to Facebook.
The leak has been titled “The Paradise Papers” and manifests as a special investigation by 96 media partners worldwide, (and includes Australia’s Four Corners Program), into two offshore service providers and 19 tax havens’ company registries.
The files reveal the offshore financial affairs of some of the world’s biggest multinational companies and richest individuals, and sets out the myriad ways in which tax can be avoided using artificial structures.
A total of 381 journalists from 67 countries have been analysing the material.
Most of the documents – 6.8 million – relate to a law firm and corporate services provider that operated together in 10 jurisdictions under the name Appleby.
Last year, the “fiduciary” arm of the business was the subject of a management buyout and it is now called Estera.
There are also details from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in secrecy jurisdictions – Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Labuan, Lebanon, Malta, the Marshall Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu.
What is the significance of these offshore services and its impact on the health system in which Australian pharmacists work?
Well, apart from providing a vehicle for tax avoidance/evasion it acts as a secret payments system where politicians, drug companies and people of influence can interface and exchange large payments or transaction-equivalent values with each other, in secret and outside of the reach of the Australian Tax Office.
Australia’s top politician, Malcolm Turnbull, is known to have a tax shelter in the Cayman Islands, (at least he is in good company with the Queen), and while technically may not be in breach of the law, many commentators feel that the offshore industry has now reached a point where its lobbying influence is now producing economic distortions and is dubious and unfair in its moral conduct.
For example, the coercive policies depriving Australian parents of their right to informed consent regarding childhood vaccination, and the coercive policy of removing government social benefit payments (in breach of human rights and the various international treaties upholding patient rights).
One prominent economist Gabriel Zucman is quoted as saying:
“Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality,” he said. “As inequality rises, offshore tax evasion is becoming an elite sport.”
How many other Australian politicians are involved in offshore services?
Apart from establishing that they don’t hold a dual citizenship should they not be forced to disclose their loyalties as to what external financial ties they may have that run counter, or in parallel to, the Australian taxation system.
A divided loyalty of this nature may disguise an undisclosed conflict of interest, which makes them biased against the average Australian when making decisions on their behalf.
i2P will look forward to the time that Malcolm Turnbull’s offshore file emerges from the pile with analysis from the pool of top investigative journalists.
The insights the documents provide raise new questions about the offshore industry, those who regulate it and how much notice is taken of them.
The files also highlight myriad legitimate ways the company’s super-rich customers can minimise the tax they pay – extraordinary methods, bewilderingly complex in some instances, that run counter to the original philosophy of the offshore sector, have been condemned by bodies such as the European commission and the OECD, and appear to have become increasingly unpalatable to ordinary people.
Meanwhile, the Australian Tax Office has shown keen interest in this new treasure trove of files, and has begun a legal process to claim back many tax dollars unpaid through the use of these offshore services.
While it may take some time to expose the affairs of some of our high profile elite members of this super-secretive group, it may have already started to tip the scales back in to some form of better “balance”.
Democracy and a decent Australian lifestyle have been put at risk by a handful of wealthy elite.
Nobody is truly opposed to the accumulation of wealth, provided it is obtained legally, openly and fairly.