Officials all around the world have been affected by the release of the Panama Papers. Many wealthy people have also been affected by it. In fact, people from Russia to China and even Britain and Iceland have been affected by the leak.
One thing thing missing from the papers are prominent Americans. The files, which were leaked by Mossack Fonseca, do not contain major US tycoons and politicians. Some of the names mentioned in the files may have been trying to evade taxes by creating shell companies.
David Geffen, the co-founder of Dreamworks SKG and Asylum Records, was listed. However, there are no Americans comparable to the prime minister of Iceland or associates of Vladimir Putin. At least that appears to be the case so far.
Marina Walker Guevara, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ deputy director, said there are many Americans, but they are more like private citizens. She said this doesn’t mean that Americans have embraced financial transparency. She added that this didn’t show that America is outside the offshore system, and that the country is actually a major player in it.
Panama is mainly a Spanish speaking region, and this is one possible reason why there is a small presence of Americans in the leaked documents, as many Americans may not have been drawn to the region. Other options they may have found more attractive may include the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands. Nicholas Shaxson, who is the author of a book about tax havens, said when it comes to tax havens, Americans have many options to choose from.
Also, Americans don’t have to go overseas in order to hide their money or activities, because they can actually do it right from home. Delaware and Wyoming allows Americans to create companies that conceal the financial beneficiary, and Americans can do this for only a few hundred dollars. Banks in the US usually have to know who their customers are, but this rule can be bypassed and shell companies can open accounts, which allows people to move around money quietly.
However, the US Treasury wants to put a stop to this practice, as bad people can use this practice to launder money. Also, this practice lands third in the world’s least transparent countries, which is higher than where Panama ranks. A treasury official commented and said they were in the final stages of drafting the rule.
However, there may be another reason why there are not many Americans listed in the papers, and that reason is the recent crackdown on Americans using foreign banks to evade taxes. Some of the tactics Washington has used to halt this problem includes lawsuits, creating tighter laws and making arrests. In fact, those who hide money and banks that offer a safe haven to those people have been targeted by the US government.
Swiss banks have been hit hard in the past. Some of these banks include Credit Suisse and UBS. The two had to pay fines of $780 million and $2.6 billion for helping Americans hide their money.
Shaxson said that there are a few tax havens that are scared of American clients and this is because they know that America can hit them. Also, there have been a few conspiracy theories going around, and this is because of the absence of Americans that were in the papers. One theory is that the CIA played a role in the leaks in order to destabilize other countries, including Russia.
Guevara did say there was a lot to be looked over in the 11.5 million documents that make up the papers, and as time goes on, more Americans may be found in there. Guevara said there is a lot of documents in the leak. She said looking through the documents is a work in progress and there may be something in there that is hidden and it has yet to be found.