Well, what to say about this week’s big leak – except that I am loving the alliteration of the Panama Papers on “Panorama”. I’m particularly enjoying the way the poor benighted Mossack Fonseca PR person is finding a thousand different ways to say “we didn’t do anything wrong”: “We believe there is an international conspiracy against secrecy”; “We have operated beyond reproach for forty years” [for all I know, Reproach is a district of Panama City]; “We have never been accused of or charged with criminal wrong-doing” [not: we have never committed criminal wrong-doing].
If I may, instead I will quote from an old friend of mine. Many years ago I started communicating with the ex-wife of a money launderer. He is still active – we think – in Monaco, but she made good her marital escape some time ago. During their marriage he put her name on several documents, and to this day she does regular Google searches to see which companies still name her as a director. Anyway, as soon as the Panama Papers story broke, my friend’s immediate thought was that her name would appear in them. And here is what she told me yesterday:
“I don’t know how I feel about this. When we were married, I did know he used my name. I signed the papers and I really didn’t know the implications of what I was doing. I was in that phase: I am married, I must trust the man who I am with. He would never do me any harm. I truly believed he was a honest man. And my name still shows up. I am sure he is linked to the Panama Papers. When I spoke to the Federal Police 16 years ago (another fiscal fraud scandal he was involved in and even named in the papers), they thought he was a fictional person. They certainly know how to do research!
“So today I sit here with mixed feelings. I remember when I got threatened because I was asking too many questions. I remember when his former business partner got threatened because he was going to witness in a court case (against the client). I remember weird fatal accidents of bankers involved. I remember how long it took to believe I was not going insane. That this was true. Not something imaginary. I remember how hurt and cheated I felt. And stupid for not having (or wanting to have?) seen what was happening. How when you live in an unreal world (a fiscal paradise), you lose your sense of reality and proportion and you can no longer tell what is normal and what is bizarre. I was young when I moved there, with very little adult life experience. I wrote to my two children with links to the google results on my name and his name. To please do something better with their life. Make a honest living. Contribute to society. That there is an ugly side to luxury and lots of money: child labour, slave labour, illegal activities, …
“The Panama Papers… I wonder how the story will continue. Most likely it will be covered up, like the other financial crime scandals. I apologise, I just want to go on with my humble, simple life but I eventually will find a way to give this a louder voice. For now, I talk about my experience. Give my view. I still meet lots of indifference. Fiscal paradises are often sunny places for shady people. I am still looking for that sunny place for sunny people!”