Last week I went to a new gathering of people (oh, go on, you forced it out of me: I’ve joined the Women’s Institute) and when they asked what I do and I gave the potted description, several of them said, “Oh, so you’re part of the Paradise Papers”. Those exact words – and as with earlier incarnations (the Papers that were Panamanian), I simply nodded and said, ”Something like that”.
I am not going to write about the Paradise Papers themselves because, contrary to popular opinion, I am not part of them and I cannot shed any more light on them than that nice man from “Panorama”. What I have been disappointed by, however, is the official response to them. Every government whose jurisdiction has been named in the papers has said two things: “let’s concentrate on the real crime here – the hacking” and “at least we’re not as bad/complicit/corrupt as that jurisdiction over there [insert name as appropriate]”. Although I appreciate that politicians are concerned primarily with keeping their jobs, I find this short-term and un-cooperative stance depressing. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if someone said, yes, we’re a bit concerned about the manner in which the information has come to light, but we do encourage whistleblowing for the public good. And now that we know how widespread are these practices – to the detriment of all our public purses – let’s concentrate on how we can work together to harmonise our tax legislation and close the loopholes. After all, saying “we’re slightly less dreadful than our neighbours” is not really a glowing endorsement, is it? We’ve been through a similar process with AML, and thankfully – at least in the jurisdictions where I choose to work – the emphasis is now on improving global AML standards, rather than finding clever ways to get around them.