Apr 13, 2016
While many observers have questioned why the Panama Papers leak has largely focused on the economic corruption of obstensible U.S. adversaries, such as associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin and relatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a notable tax evasion whistleblower has come forward with what he believes is a plausible answer.
"The CIA I'm sure is behind this, in my opinion," said former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld, who in 2005 blew the whistle on the Swiss banking giant, which lead to a U.S. government investigation into massive fraud and bank-enabled tax evasion.
"The very fact that we see all these names surface that are the direct quote-unquote enemies of the United States--Russia, China, Pakistan, Argentina--and we don't see one U.S. name. Why is that?" Birkenfeld asked during an exclusive interview with CNBC on Tuesday. "Quite frankly, my feeling is that this is certainly an intelligence agency operation."
The so-called Panama Papers, which were made public on April 3rd, exposed massive, international tax evasion by some of the world's wealthy and powerful. And while popular anger led to the resignation of at least one world leader, Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, and spurred a global investigation, the United States has remained remarkably unscathed.
"If you've got NSA and CIA spying on foreign governments they can certainly get into a law firm like this," Birkenfeld said, referring to the global firm Mossack Fonseca, from which the 11.5 million documents were taken. "But they selectively bring the information to the public domain that doesn't hurt the U.S. in any shape or form. That's wrong. And there's something seriously sinister here behind this."
As for the revelations that UK Prime Minister David Cameron, a U.S. ally, personally intervened to protect tax havens while he profited from his father's offshore trust, Birkenfeld chalks that up to "collateral damage," according to CNBC.
On Tuesday, organized crime prosecutors raided the Panama City headquarters of Mossack Fonseca among other subsidiaries reportedly to "obtain documentation linked to the information published in news articles that establish the use of the firm in illicit activities."
Birkenfeld also said while working for UBS he knew of Mossack Fonseca, but that the firm was just a bit player in the vast global tax evasion network with "Panama operating as a conduit to the Swiss banks and the trust companies to set up these facilities for clients around the world."
With the spotlight on those individuals who were connected to this one firm, the economic corruption of the rest of the world continues to fly under the radar.
"Mossack Fonseca is no bad apple; it is just one small part of a much deeper problem," declared the UK-based anti-corruption group Global Witness on Wednesday. Indeed, as the group previously pointed out, "the problem of tax havens and shell companies...is a big and homegrown issue in the U.S."
"What was Panama's ranking?" the newspaper writes. "It was ten spots behind the U.S., at 13."
*This article has been adjusted to better clarify that Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been directly implicated in any of the Panama Paper disclsoures.
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