No doubt at this stage you will have seen some, none or all the coverage surrounding the release of the infamous Panama Papers being the leaked and stolen client files of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm operating in Panama. While this all makes for salacious reading and no doubt sells newspapers we should take a step back and consider exactly what has happened here and what we know and don’t know.
In the first instance Mossack Fonseca have not been charged with any offence in relation to this. It is also a statement of fact that this information was stolen from them and illegally disseminated to journalists. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) decided unilaterally to make the database stolen from them public on May 9th 2016. It is based on the theft of confidential information and is a violation of the confidentiality agreement between attorney and client, which should be protected.
It also does not address the issue of personal privacy. Under Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”. That includes members of various Governments, wealthy individuals and celebrities. It seems that no one is talking about this matter either. It seems that in the race to get the best headline or most scandalous details all matters relating to theft, privacy etc. are of no relevance.
Now there are those (journalists and the general public) who will argue that what was happening here was tax evasion on a massive scale by rich people and that it was deeply unfair on all the average taxpayers in the specific countries mentioned as being affected.
In the first instance what is the definition of tax evasion. Tax evasion is the illegal evasion of taxes by individuals, corporations, and trusts. Tax evasion often entails taxpayers deliberately misrepresenting the true state of their affairs to the tax authorities to reduce their tax liability and includes dishonest tax reporting, such as declaring less income, profits or gains than the amounts actually earned, or overstating deductions. Has it been proven beyond reasonable doubt in any court that this occurred here?
Secondly the definition of rich is having abundant possessions and especially material wealth. Has it been proven beyond reasonable doubt that all these people are such?
The answer to both questions is no. So this brings us to the title of this piece – the lawbreakers that no one is talking about – the hackers, the leakers and the journalists – what action is being taken against them – none it would appear and why – because we all know that everyone mentioned on the stolen files are guilty as sin it would appear – we know it absolutely we are assured! So it is ok to break the law when we amateurs are sure we are right.
In light of this new standard perhaps the police should simply arrest all known criminals and beat confessions out of them where they cannot prove it in a court of law. If they are looking for them either a journalist or a member of the public could point them out to move matters along. This is a slippery slope we are going down and just to be clear the people who would really suffer under this type regime would not be the so called rich or the tax evaders.