‘Panama whodunit: Everybody loves a good spy story’
Russian President Vladimir Putin, during Thursday's Q&A session with the Russian public, commented on the Panama Papers scandal: “It seems as if it was prepared by lawyers instead of journalists, judging by its style and the facts. They're not actually accusing anybody of anything. That's the whole point. They're just muddying the waters.”
RT: Putin sees the Panama leak as a provocation which was not prepared by journalists. If that's the case, what is the main aim of such actions and who could be behind it?
Martin McCauley: It is a very interesting case because what the Panama Papers have revealed is that those involved in offshore accounts have not done anything illegal. Because they were going in accordance to the law, which is permitted tax avoidance. Therefore, from a legal point of view, there is no legal case to stand up. Therefore, it has to be political - and a lot of mudslinging. Of course you’ve seen the Icelandic prime minister fall, and David Cameron made a hash about the revelations about his father. A lot of politicians now are running scared because they are afraid that something will pop up and embarrass them. David Cameron’s standing in Britain as regards trust has gone down, so therefore, they are very important from a political point of view. In fact, it may influence the Brexit vote in June because public resentment of these revelations even though they are not illegal has surfaced and a lot of people are very angry and want offshore accounts to be abolished here and now, but that is absolutely impossible. From a worldwide perspective it’s done a lot of damage to a lot of politicians, but no damage at all to President Putin because he is not mentioned, but some of the oligarchs are. That was nothing new because from the world perspective a lot of politicians have in fact lost face.
RT: A former tax evasion whistleblower, Bradley Birkenfeld, claimed the CIA must be behind the Panama Papers. Why do you think the finger has been pointed at the CIA here?
MM: In Russia, and many parts of the world, blame the CIA. They are the bad guys, so therefore they must be behind some of these leaks. If it is embarrassing, then you blame the CIA. But it is difficult to understand why the CIA would try and remove the prime minister of Iceland, who is pro-American. So, one would say that whoever did the leaking, now it is quite easy to do so, because with a stick you can get an enormous amount of documents… and then release them to the world. The conclusion would be that it was somebody who in fact wanted to do damage not only America but also to many politicians in the rest of the world. So, the CIA may in fact have known something about it. If you think the CIA was behind it, then you think they are all-powerful, but unfortunately if you go back to James Bond 007 than you look at Russia, but if you are in Russia, you will blame the CIA. Both sides blame each other because we love a spy story.
RT: At the same time, an economist at Washington's Brookings Institution said last week that the Panama Papers were leaked by Russia… Where does the balance of probability fall in your view: Russia or the CIA?
MM: The Brookings Institute is not really a friend of Russia. So, therefore probably from an American establishment, if you want to find a bad guy, the bad guy has to be Russia. In fact if the FSB (the Russian intelligence) was behind this then they are extraordinarily powerful and extraordinary influential. In fact, Brookings is saying the Russians are capable of causing a leak anywhere, they are so powerful now. And basically that’s a dangerous thing to say. In fact, it is a compliment, if you like, to the FSB, and the foreign intelligence agency of Russia.
RT: A new report by Oxfam claims US corporations have about $1.4 trillion hidden in tax havens which is more money than the entire GDP of Spain, Mexico and Australia... Are we likely to see a big reaction to these revelations? Will it be as big as the Panama Papers?
MM: This is in the offing because everyone knows about the trends in dollars. In fact, the Chinese government has stated that something like a trillion US dollars have left China illegally. And where is that money? That money is in the offshore accounts, in the London property market. It is coming back already to the London property market, because there are hundreds of offshore companies which own very expensive properties in London and people want to know why is that. Because these people don’t live in the country and they’ve parked their money. Where did their money come from? Has it been laundered, and so on? But it is coming to the London property market and that has forced prices up. So, this is another time bomb waiting. The property time bomb.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.