Written by Antonio Peña Jumpa
The year 2021 has brought a socio-legal novelty of great importance within the construction of the postmodern State in the world: the Pandora Papers. What are they and what effects can they have on our State and our society? These are questions that we try to answer in the following paragraphs.
Pandora Papers are a set of documents obtained in an extraordinary way from the information systems of institutions dedicated to the formation of «ghost» companies or fictitious companies in places called tax havens to hide money and not pay taxes. Although, it is not the first time that this type of document has been obtained or filtered, the size of its number and weight (11.9 million documents in about 3 Terabytes) and its relationship with world leaders who direct or intervene in the management of the politics, the economy, or the art of the countries of the world never ceases to amaze us (see Pandora Papers online).
These papers or documents were leaked from at least 14 international law firms which, in turn, are related to dozens of national law firms, and were delivered to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a prestigious institution that previously unveiled similar documents (see https://www.icij.org/). The Consortium, through its members, began to distribute, systematize, publish, and denounce, since September 2021, the hidden fortunes of politicians, businessmen, artists, public officials, and people linked to illegal activities (of all political tendencies, of all business categories and different public positions).
In the process, banks, multinational companies, law firms and accounting firms based in the United States and Europe are involved mainly, in addition to the hundreds of businessmen, politicians (some presidents and former presidents of Latin American countries such as Peru), artists, public officials, persons linked to illicit activities, mentioned above. All this has been called an offshore system or industry: it involves the constitution and administration of «ghost» companies (fictitious or apparent used to transfer or hide money) in tax havens.
These facts lead us in its effects through various paths of analysis.
In the first place, it should be noted that law firms act consciously from a constitutional premise in each country: setting up a «ghost» company in a tax haven is not a crime. Freedom of work, like freedom of business, guarantees this work.
Second, it is known by the same law firms that the ILLEGAL act or the CRIME on the above facts is found at the moment that the money or information of the money deposited by the shareholders or the owners of these “ghost” companies is hidden. However, again, the legal ruse surfaces: the shareholders or apparent owners of the fictitious companies are not the owners of the money, but young practitioners of the law firms or figurehead men. A double crime is committed: not only is information about the money hidden, but the main owners or owners of the hidden money are concealed.
Third, the legal work of the law firms involved is developed under the principle of Banking secrecy and the set of international jurisdictions. Billionaires and their figurehead men who hire these legal services have the fundamental right to Banking secrecy in their country of origin, for example in Peru. But, in addition, since law firms constitute fictitious companies in a foreign country, where there is another legal system, it is difficult to detect and report them. In the end, they make fun of the law or the national legal system.
What can we do?
The facts show the challenge that involves not only the rulers of each country, but also the society of the affected country, from where the money is hidden or transferred. It is the national or international society the first that can detect and control the above events. This is demonstrated in the work carried out by those who leaked the information and transmitted it to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
But the rulers of each country are also obliged to act. If these leaders are honest, they do not have to fear developing an extraordinary legal standard to confront law firms, as well as any professional who is dedicated to the constitution of fictitious companies with concealment of money. In the same sense, our honest leaders must undertake an international policy that seeks to extinguish the countries that are constituted as tax havens.
However, the central point is in Banking secrecy. It is urgent that the rulers and honest people work to debate and propose changes on Banking secrecy. In a postmodern state, economic privacy is not relevant. So, is it possible that we publicly share our monthly income and expenses? It is an alternative to consider overcoming the power of the offshore system or industry.
Lima, December 31, 2021.