Pandora Papers should galvanize campaign for global financial regime change | Print edition


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Less than two weeks have passed since the story of Pandora Newspapers hit the headlines. Virtually all sections of the media focused on the story which was the result of intensive and careful monitoring by the International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ).

As the two weeks draw to a close, the sensational revelations no longer even occupy the inside pages of our media.

ICIJ investigations have revealed the accumulation of wealth in tax havens by heads of state, businessmen, politicians and a wide range of other individuals and other places allegedly in violation of the laws on money laundering and other laws in their home country. The names of the individuals and the positions they held in their home countries made the revelations all the more sensational.

In the list of names were two Sri Lankans: Nirupama Rajapaksa, a former deputy minister, and her husband Thirukumar Nadesan who, according to the ICIJ, had accumulated significant offshore assets.

A Sinhala newspaper also claimed that 93 other people from Sri Lanka were named in the Pandora Papers, although no details on these people were immediately available.

While Nadesan, in a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that he and his wife “are completely innocent and are not guilty of any wrongdoing,” the President ordered the Commission to investigate the allegations of bribery. -vin and corruption (CIABOC) to investigate and submit a report within one month. .

Sunday Times in its editorial of October 10, 2021 described the presidential directive as “equivalent to a bad joke”, citing the poor record of the CIABOC since its creation in 1994.

Interestingly, the President’s directive to CIABOC further confirms the claim that the 20th Amendment removed the independence of CIABOC and other committees. Before the enactment of the 20th Amendment, no president could give directions, good or bad, to any committee.

However, for a country like Sri Lanka there are many issues beyond the individual guilt of the two people named in the Pandora Papers. People will remember that when the political transition from the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa to the presidency of Maithripala Sirisena took place on the night of January 8, 2015, it was this same Thirukumar Nadesan who visited Temple Trees with Ranil Wickremesinghe in the middle of the night. to ease the transition.

This incident clearly reflects the duality in the world of Sri Lankan politics in which powerful individuals exert influence in the corridors of power while the masses curl up in the streets believing that it is they who influence changes for the well of the country.

If such individuals play a public role in matters as important as the transition of regime change, one can only shudder to think what roles they play and what influences they exert on governance away from the public eye.

The other aspect of the story of the Pandora Papers is its impact on the economy and therefore on the lives of the citizens of Sri Lanka and those of other countries in the same situation.

The files that were part of the two-year investigation revealed that billions of dollars were flowing from impoverished and autocratic nations to private accounts listed as shell companies and trusts, often hidden from courts, creditors and the forces. of the order. The allegations range from corruption to money laundering and tax evasion.

A news article goes on to say: “Surveys have shown that as a result of the movement of these funds, governments around the world are deprived of the resources they desperately need and that the world’s wealth is being concentrated in less and less. hands.

What matters to Sri Lanka, more than the individual guilt of the two appointees, is that lax tax regulations have been a boon to the rich and powerful. The country still recovering from the impact of three decades of armed conflict exacerbated by the current pandemic must struggle to raise funds for economic development and the much-needed social reform programs to uplift the poor and marginalized while that the resources that belong to it are hidden elsewhere.

Sunday Times The editorial from October 10, 2021 highlighted the impact on the poorest countries when it said: Very soon will go into limbo of things forgotten. This is the harsh reality because of the connection between politicians and appointed businessmen. “

“Many countries, especially in the West, are taking advantage of allowing foreigners to park their money with them. These documents show the amount of properties purchased in UK, Australia etc with shady money. These countries are only concerned if the money is used for terrorist purposes against them, or for drug trafficking – again, only if it affects them. They damn care about everything else and as long as these funds help to bolster their economies, they are okay with it, making nothing but lip service to the concept of money laundering or plundering the wealth of most nations. poor.

In neighboring Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “We welcome the Pandora Papers which expose the ill-gotten wealth of the elites, accumulated by tax evasion and corruption and laundered in financial ‘havens’. The UN SG’s FACTI panel calculated a staggering $ 7 trillion in stolen assets parked in largely offshore tax havens.

Ownership of offshore holding companies is not illegal in most countries and does not indicate wrongdoing, but the instrument is frequently used to avoid tax liability or to maintain secrecy about large financial transactions.

The government of the former Pakistani cricketer captain has been rocked by allegations in the Pandora Papers which named more than 700 Pakistani citizens, including ministers, allies of Imran Khan’s party and families of military officials. The prime minister ordered investigations into the revelations.

Imran Khan has strongly criticized tax havens and others, which offer corrupt elements, especially in the poorest countries, the opportunity to siphon and store ill-gotten wealth in such havens, thereby bleeding these countries of much-needed resources. development.

Imran Khan lamented the lack of political will in rich countries to get rid of these offshore tax havens. He stresses that the existence of such places not only deprives developing countries of much-needed resources, but is also not a deterrent for criminally corrupt elements in the poorest countries.

It is time for countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan to take the initiative in surveying world opinion to dismantle these morally reprehensible havens. As long as these structures facilitate the movement of these funds, the corrupt will always find ways to use them.

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