By Daniel Margrain
Steve Topple’s excellent piece for the Canary which revisited the one year old Panama Papers scandal, was a welcome reminder of the background to the biggest data leak in history. As Topple outlined, the government’s stated intention to tackle the systematic corruption that resulted from the handing over by an anonymous source of massive amounts of data from the Panama-based, German-run law firm Mossack Fonseca which specializes in providing clients with dodgy offshore accounts, was essentially a face-saving exercise intended to give the public the impression that the elites were taking the issue seriously. But a year down the line, it appears to be business as usual.
Due to the specific nature of the leak, it’s clear that the potentially incendiary material is unlikely to see the light of day within the public domain. Given that the leaked material is being managed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) who in turn are supported by some of America’s biggest corporate funders, this was always going to be the case.
As was suggested at the time, had the leaker approached Wikileaks with the 2.6 terabytes of data consisting of 11.5 million documents, rather than Suddeutsche Zeitung – and by extension, the Western media more widely – the impact and potential consequences for those concerned would of been far greater. Instead, the largest data leak that journalists have ever worked with was selectively ‘drip-fed’ with most of the significant amounts implicating Western elites being censored from the public gaze.
The public had already seen signs of that with the release of Luke Harding’s Guardian piece published exactly one year to the day (April 4, 2016). Predictably, Harding focused on Russian individuals and companies whose wealth represents a minority of the money stashed away. Crucially, he failed to mention that 9,670 UK Companies and over 3,000 US Companies, as well as former PM David Cameron’s father, top Tories and some of the UK’s biggest allies, were implicated and/or named in the Panama Papers.
Did the corporate media vilify David Cameron for some serious high-ranking connections to this mother of all leaks? No, it did not. Did the same media publish any damning report that featured Cameron airbrushed alongside global ‘baddies,’ like former Iranian leader Ahmadinejad? Again, the answer is No.
In the year since the leak, there has been no mention in the corporate media of the fact that the amount of UK companies, banks and accountants complicit in the scandal ranked second highest in an international league table (see below):
Neither has there been any mention of the numerous huge Western multinational corporations or billionaires involved, some of whom sit in the House of Lords. It’s also worth recalling that Harding failed to mention by name the 12 leaders, past and present, identified in the documents. Instead, the Guardian journalist, in line with the methodological approach adopted by Suddeutsche Zeitung, selectively focused on the West’s official enemies – Russia, Syria and North Korea.
There was certainly no impression given in the Guardian article that the global web of corruption and tax avoidance extends to 72 states, heads or former heads of state. Instead, the front cover of the paper at the time sensationally headlined with the words “Exclusive: The Secret $2bn trail of deals that lead all the way to Putin”.
Neither would one have ascertained the scale of the corruption having watched the UK state broadcaster, the BBC, who chose to mention just five of the 72 – Egypt, Iceland, Gaddafi, Putin and Assad. Central to all this is the pathetic kowtowing to power by our media that’s supposed to be impartial and independent yet they act reflexively on mass by directing their fire at enemies of the state.
Naturally, the media cannot be perceived to be so transparently biased which is why the occasional ‘balanced’ message is required. Step forward the Telegraph. A year ago to the day (April 4, 2016), the paper reported:
“David Cameron’s father ran an offshore fund which avoided paying tax in Britain by hiring Bahamas residents, including a bishop, to sign paperwork…The fund, which was established in the 1980s with help from the Prime Minister’s late father, continues today. The Guardian says it has confirmed that ‘in 30 years Blairmore has never paid a penny of tax in the UK on its profits.”
Nevertheless, the targeting of a dead man is virtually risk free as will be the ‘outing’ of an occasional senile corrupt Lord to be cynically used a sacrificial lamb for the media hacks to peruse over if and when the time is right. Ultimately, the UK Secret Services will never allow the media to publish anything that is likely to damage the ‘reputations’ of leading establishment figures. The Snowden files that the Guardian had in its possession but were requested to be destroyed by M15, are proof of that.
On Monday April 4, 2016, I had been watching the UK media all day after the Panama Papers story broke. All of the news bulletins, without exception, prefaced the scandal with either Putin, Cameron’s deceased father or Assad. It’s mainly the first two which are easy and convenient targets intended to deflect away from the crimes that implicate ‘our’ leaders. Almost certainly then, there is a highly motivated political agenda at work here.
This explains why Iceland, who locked up many of its corrupt and criminal bankers, was also named. Following the revelation that the country’s PM was implicated in the scandal, the people of Reykjavik took to the streets in their thousands demanding his resignation which happened shortly afterwards.
The elites on both sides of the Atlantic are concerned about the affect the revealing of widespread and systematic corruption within the high echelons of media and politics will have on the body politic of Europe and North America. They don’t want Reykjavik to spread to London, Paris and Washington. This is another reason why the full scale nature of those implicated is unlikely to be revealed for many years to come, if ever.
What all this highlights is the public is being cynically deceived by the corporate media in order to get their fellow elites off the hook. Craig Murray’s brilliant expose of the BBC Panorama documentary, Tax Havens of the Rich and Powerful Exposed, highlights the extent to which BBC producers and presenters will go to in order to misdirect their audience to this end.
Perhaps less subtle than the overt propaganda piece, Saving Syria’s Children, but no less effective, the BBC related at length the stories of the money laundering companies of the Icelandic PM and Putin’s alleged cellist. As Murray said:
“The impression was definitely given and reinforced that these companies were in Panama. [Presenter] Richard Bilton deliberately suppressed the information that all the companies involved were in fact not Panamanian but in the corrupt British colony of the British Virgin Islands. At no stage did Bilton even mention the British Virgin Islands.”
Murray goes on to say:
“Is it not truly, truly, astonishing the British Virgin Islands were not even mentioned when the BBC broadcast their “investigation” of these documents?”
The BBC, and media in general, are obscuring the key role British money-laundering via its base in the British Virgin Islands plays in these transactions. It can never be stated enough that this corruption scandal mostly concerns the British Virgin Islands. Yes, the corruption is widespread and involves a number of world leaders, some of whom are the UK governments official enemies.
However, in the broader scheme of things, these political figures are essentially peripheral. The level of corruption is widespread and systemic. It’s important that the ruling elites are constantly reminded that the British public haven’t forgotten about the Panama Papers scandal.
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