When the Panama Papers were released last Sunday, many realized what they had long suspected true: the wealthy elite have been gaming the system for decades, and those of us not privy to a retinue of high-powered lawyers and accountants had been subjected to more than our fair share of the tax burden.
Thus, it makes perfect sense for the bombshell allegation to be met with an almost universal derision across the world. In the aftermath, the heads of states, politicians and power players that have been named in the 11.5 million pages of the Panama Papers, have either stepped down, played the indifference card or gone on the offensive through mass censorship.
Iceland’s PM is the First Casualty
In the three days since the leak, Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has been forced to step down after nationwide protests called for his immediate resignation. Gunnlaugsson was alleged to have bought and sold his stake in an offshore company he created through the services of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the center of the scandal. The troubling aspect of this off-the-record deal was that Gunnlaugsson sold his share in the company for $1, a day before an Icelandic law went into effect, which required all politicians to fully declare their assets. Furthermore, the sold company, Wintris, had holdings in the three failed Icelandic banks of the 2008 financial crisis. By not fully declaring his ties to Wintris, Gunnlauggson was in a clear conflict of interest—especially since his election platform was based on reform and increased transparency in the financial sector.
The Most Lucrative Job in Russia: Cellist
Perhaps the most striking name that came out of the leak was that of Russian President Vladimir Putin. While the President’s name was not directly tied to any offshore accounts, the journalists at Süddeutsche Zeitung (the firm responsible for the leak), connected more than $2 billion in offshore bank accounts and companies to Putin’s childhood friend, and a member of his inner circle, Sergei Roldugin. Questions have naturally arisen over the source of Roldugin vast wealth, with many alleging the Russian leader is using his childhood friend as a firewall to launder his, own oft-questioned sources of income. In classic Russian fashion, the Kremlin is tight-lipped about the accusations levied against Putin, merely warning its citizens in the days leading up to the leak, to brace for an incoming barrage of misinformation against Putin and his associates in an attempt by foreign powers to discredit the Russian government.
China Goes on the Offensive
While it was business as usual in the Kremlin, China has taken more active measures in the days following the leak. With the Panama Papers revealing links between family members of China’s leader Xi Jinping, and offshore companies, China’s Politburo has prevented the country’s top news outlets from reporting on the topic. Furthermore, as USA Today reports, Chinese censors have blocked stories by Süddeutsche Zeitung and its partner agencies while The People’s Daily, an official paper of the Communist Party and state broadcaster China Central Television have not so much as mentioned the affair.
The Bottom Line
The biggest leak in journalistic history has sent shock waves throughout the world. In the aftermath of the Panama Papers, reaction around has been quite varied. While Iceland has acted swiftly to oust its Prime Minister, the Kremlin has taken on a more indifferent tone, whereas the Chinese have outright censored any content that might cast a negative light on the ruling party.
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