Do the Panama Papers reveal a parallel world?

The Panama Papers have shown how politicians and celebrities from all over the world park their money in offshore shell companies. For some commentators this is proof that the super-rich have created a parallel world governed by its own laws. Others warn against rashly pointing fingers at the wealthy.

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Contributors (RO) /

Disenchantment with politicians will grow

The vast amount of money being stashed in offshore firms will increase the dissatisfaction with the political classes, writes political scientist Valentin Naumescu on the Contributors blogging platform:

“Ultimately the globalisation of corruption seems to be inherent to wealth and power. The revelation of this truth pours fuel on the smouldering fire of the anti-system revolution that is developing all over the world under different names and ideological platforms. Not just households and the traditional financial systems are affected by the revelations, but also the international political system as a whole. … The more money the globalised crooks have, the greater their appetite grows for leaving the state with ever less - even when they themselves lead that state and have basically stipulated the tax rates.”

Jornal de Negócios (PT) /

Greed is a universal pandemic

The documents show that the wealthy have created a parallel world, the liberal business daily Jornal de Negócios writes:

“The Panama Papers are frightening for many reasons: because they undermine our concept of society as we see it today. Because they are conclusive proof that greed has become a universal pandemic. Because they show how deeply convinced the 'powerful people of this world' are that the laws simply don't apply for them - or that they have special rights. … The Panama Papers expose a world like Gotham City, the home of criminality and corruption - an obscene world full of danger, populated by public figures who lead double lives. … The only objective way to stop these practices is to eliminate the 'instrument of temptation' [the tax havens] once and for all.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Rich of the world share the spoils

The war between the poor and the rich takes place not only on the national level, sociologists Michel Pinçon and Monique Pinçon-Charlot write in the centre-left daily Le Monde:

“Tax evasion is one of the instruments of domination used by the wealthiest classes. With the creation of budget deficits they obtain the people's consent for the reimbursement of these debts whose real goal is to further enrich the wealthy. The most recent revelations only confirm the refusal of the richest to pay taxes commensurate to their wealth, and so to show solidarity with national interests. ... The tens of billions of dollars that disappear in this way around the world are not only the stuff of a class war which the richest are waging for their own profit, they are also at the centre of a war between the developed and the developing countries - a war which also benefits the rich. ... And as usual the impression being conveyed is that now, finally, tax fraud is a thing of the past.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Viewing all the wealthy with suspicion goes too far

There are black sheep in all income groups, the conservative daily Die Welt counters:

“Tax honesty is no doubt as widespread among the rich as among the less well-off. Although they can hardly put their money in tax havens, lower earners may well be tempted to moonlight and play fast and loose with mileage allowances and faked receipts. There are black sheep in all income groups. No doubt, however, the majority prefers to pay what they have to rather than live in continual fear of the tax man. Those who commit tax fraud must be punished. But in many cases the establishment of an offshore company merely serves to protect privacy, when for example yachts, share packages or large properties are bought and managed. Especially here in Germany widespread envy of 'the rich' only encourages such secretiveness.”

Habertürk (TR) /

Revelations a yardstick for democracy

The contrasting reactions to the Panama Paper revelations in different countries say a lot about how developed democracy is there, the conservative daily Habertürk points out:

“In Iceland the opposition immediately called for the resignation of its prime minister after he was implicated in the affair; the former prime minister called for him to step down even before the public began making a fuss, pointing out that apart from the money the prime minister had violated his agreement with the people and kept these things hidden from them. Perhaps that's precisely what democracy is: a system that can't prevent dirty dealings but can condemn and punish them! … In Russia, by contrast, with one or two exceptions none of the papers or TV channels have been able to publish the news [about the involvement of people with close ties to Putin in the Panama dealings]. Because Russia is not like Iceland Putin would probably pitch the whole thing as an attempted coup and blame the rest of the world.”