The Pandora Papers beat-up revealed, not the terrible scandal the international group of newspapers behind the loudly proclaimed “revelation”, but rather the desperate state of the print media fighting for its survival.
So Putin’s a crook with massive assets hidden behind a trust. For God’s sake! The exposure of Putin’s ill-gotten wealth is a decade old story. As he understandably denies it, you can’t blame him for hiding the ownership of his assets.
The King of Jordan it was revealed, owns luxury homes in a few foreign locations and hides their ownership in Trusts ergo, he’s corrupt. What nonsense! First, as monarch he enjoys tax exemption and second, although by Middle East standards Jordan is reasonably stable, he’s still vulnerable to a fanatical Moslem assassin, which calls for such home secrecy when he is abroad.
Tony Blair bought a London residence from an off-shore vendor by taking over the shareholding in the ownership entity. Thus, ostensibly the property never changed hands thereby saving on stamp duty.
Acquiring an asset by this means is a legitimate transfer process and happens every day in New Zealand and elsewhere, taxation liability mostly not coming into it. Rather it’s a quick and efficient way to purchase something and saves the trouble of forming a new company.
Numerous other political figures were revealed as having assets in Trusts. What a shock. Hundreds of thousands of Kiwis also have assets in Trust for excellent reasons unrelated to tax.
New Zealand trusts are used as a vehicle for secret foreign ownerships, the NZ Herald breathlessly proclaimed, despite this being known for a decade. The principal creator of New Zealand Trusts for this purpose is a lawyer mate of mine. His clientele are drawn entirely from corrupt Latin American countries, where their legitimately gained wealth is otherwise subject to possible confiscation.
There’s nothing immoral or illegal about this as then Prime Minister Key proclaimed when the media tried to beat this up as a scandal a decade back. In fact it’s a nice little fee-earner for New Zealand.
The issue regarding the big tech companies such as Amazon and Facebook, not paying tax as they effectively live in the ether, is quite another matter, albeit hardly a scoop. Furthermore, although difficult, it’s rightly being addressed by concerted government efforts working together. Ultimately they will prevail, as indeed they should. But as I said, the real issue underlying this non-story is the increasing fight for survival through sensationalism by the dying print media.
Newspapers reached their peak about 1990, notwithstanding television rivalry. But the Internet subsequently killed them and those remaining are fighting for survival with rapidly declining sales.
Back in those golden days the journalist’s bible known everywhere, was Evelyn Waugh’s wonderful 1938 “Scoop”, one of the funniest books ever written.
Set in then Abyssinia, although Waugh pretended otherwise, it was a glorious send-up of journalistic practices.
After reading the Panama Papers beat-up I promptly pulled out “Scoop” for yet another re-read. It provided superb spirit-lifting therapy in these dark days. It’s often described as a satire of sensationalist journalism by foreign correspondents, which I can certainly vouch for as before mass travel I was all over the place and per chance on a number of occasions found myself in revolutions in various countries. The hyperbolic accounts I read in the press on my return quickly confirmed the underlying validity of “Scoop”.