Is Europe losing its image as Mr Clean?

In addition to mentioning the British and Icelandic prime ministers, the Panama Papers contain the names of many European VIPs and politicians. Is tax dodging using offshore companies mainly a Western phenomenon?

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Rajoy should follow industry minister's example

Spain's Industry Minister José Manuel Soria resigned on Friday after being implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. Since Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy defended Soria for years against allegations of corruption he should also step down, news website argues:

“That someone like Soria was able to become minister says a lot (and a lot of bad things) about this government and this country. … Soria has gone and Rajoy should have gone with him because he was the one who trusted a politician despite the evidence against him and despite his tarnished past. And now lo and behold: the same politician who had no qualms about accepting holiday invitations from entrepreneurs and travelling for free in private jets was also hiding his assets in tax havens. Fancy that!”

Trouw (NL) /

The Dutch thrive on tax benefits

The Dutch parliament plans to set up a committee of inquiry on the Panama Papers scandal. First of all the politicians should examine affairs in their own country, the Christian daily Trouw comments:

“The Panama Papers have exposed practices that put huge pressure on the people's attitude to paying taxes. On the other hand the Netherlands offers companies tax benefits that secure major economic advantages for the country. The political leaders must find a balance between these two aspects. Compared with other countries in the EU the Dutch financial sector is disproportionately large. … This leads to two conflicting conclusions: either that the sector has become too large because the Netherlands's regulations are too lax. Or that we have this sector now and the regulations must therefore remain lax. But in view of the broad level of tolerance of tax benefits the first conclusion must prevail.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Ban deceitful creatures from the system

The Belgian bank Dexia also helped clients to acquire shares in shell companies in Panama. The centre-left daily De Morgen calls for a big clean-up at the bank:

“We are right to be appalled that Dexia bank, which was bailed out with billions in tax money, happily continued to advise its clients on how to dodge taxes. Was it naïve to believe that the business culture would change simply because the state rushed to its aid? … There are also indications that the tax inspectors have known about these practices for years. And that the financial markets watchdog the FSMA decided to turn a blind eye. … Once again Jean-Paul Servais, the head of the FSMA, has come under suspicion. … If there is an error in the system it is that such creatures aren't banned from these structures. The potential responsibility of the FSMA in ignoring the 'Dexia Papers' is an opportunity for the government to finally do the right thing.” (ES) /

Spain's lying minister must resign

Spain's Industry Minister, José Manuel Soria, has recanted previous statements and admitted at a press conference that he was involved in companies based in tax havens. The leftist website calls for his resignation:

“The incidents occurred in the 1990s and all come under the statute of limitations. But Minister Soria's lies are manifest and just a few hours old. … He claims that the commercial register is lying, that the Panama Papers are lying, that his brother's signature was faked and that he was named as secretary of UK Lines in the British commercial register 'by mistake'. … The minister finished the startling press conference with the words: 'I'm not sure if everything is clear now'. It's crystal clear. The 'mistake' is that we have such a liar as a minister of the Spanish government.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Fresh ammunition for Moscow and Beijing

The West is the big loser following the exposure of politicians' offshore business practices, the liberal daily Eesti Päevaleht fears:

“Paradoxically, the Panama Papers contain far more compromising material about non-Western states than about the West. But because of censorship the Chinese know virtually nothing about the corruption of their own leaders. In Russia the documents that refer to people close to Putin have been portrayed as part of the West's information war. … Tolerance of corruption in these countries is also far greater than in the West. So the Panama Papers don't really reveal anything new about their leaders, who are already perceived as cleptocrats anyway. However, they can now point to the West and say: See, they do the same things they accuse us of doing. We may believe that the resignation of Iceland's prime minister and the pressure Cameron has come under are a sign of our higher democratic standards, but the rest of the world won't be convinced.”

Kauppalehti (FI) /

In democracies every abuse comes to light

It is only in democratic societies that irregularities and abuses can be exposed as they have been through the Panama Papers, the business paper Kauppalehti stresses:

“This episode has once again shown how important the free flow of information in society and democracy is. … Democracy is based on institutions, on respect for the opposition, on the independence of the judiciary and the media and on freedom and equality. Unfortunately this doesn't even appear to be the trend in all the states of the West. … Even if democracy doesn't always function satisfactorily it is the only system that is capable of correcting its own mistakes. These ladies and gentlemen have been stashing their money away in tax havens for years, perhaps even for decades, but in the end every abuse comes to light.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Madrid gave Panama too much freedom

Active support from the Spanish government is one of the factors that enables Panama to serve as a tax haven, the conservative daily El Mundo rails:

“[Former Socialist prime minister] Zapatero allowed himself to be blackmailed by the Panamanian government in order to secure a two-billion-euro contract for Spanish construction companies to extend the Panama Canal. … In 2013, with the conservative PP government already in power, Madrid signed an agreement [with Panama] listing crimes to be combated which, however, failed to mention economic crimes and in particular money laundering. … A glaring omission, particularly in view of the fact that the government included money laundering in 26 other agreements of a similar nature signed by Spain with other countries. … So the government urgently needs to put Panama back on its list of tax havens, as France already did this week.”

More opinions

Times of Malta (MT) / 10 April 2016
  Heavily compromised Maltese minister should resign