A few weeks after the start of the publication of the Panama Papers, Sigmund Gudhlaffsonn. He resigned after the revelation that he had salted away more than $5 billion into an account in the Caribbean, from an illicit deal in which he sold an illegitimate company, to his wife for the price of one dollar.
Gudhlaffsonn, is among the so-far 72 former and present Heads of States, named by an investigative mix revealed by the German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, and more than 107 reporters of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in at least 80 countries.
The painstaking probe, that has taken months, comprises a staggering eleven million documents, mainly uncovered from probing the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, one of the five major organizations at the heart of the “global illicit financial flows” – more commonly known as money laundering.
Where governments are concerned, this is simply theft from the respective treasuries by the powerful politicians and their associates; and in companies, by businessmen who want to avoid tax in the countries they are raking huge profits from.
According to the Financial Global Agency, this laundering takes in $48 billion dollars annually; and the Panama Papers may reveal the theft of up to a mind-boggling 30 trillion dollars, has so far taken place.
The Caribbean money hide-outs in the Atlantic islands and Central America, represent a shift from the-now worn-out Swiss bank accounts that have been regularly exposed where former dictators used to salt their money in. Apart from Panama and the Cayman Islands, of course, such other places for laundering are the British Virgin Islands, Isle of Man, Hong Kong, and other of-shore places, such as Mauritius.
As the journalists pore over the documents, the revelations give interesting information, globally. In Africa, so far, former Sudanese, Ghanaian, Libyan and Egyptian presidents and their associates and/or relatives, have been named.
It should not be surprising that the late Libyan dictator, Muammar al Ghadhaffi, has been named; nor is it for former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his sons, currently facing court on corruption charges. But it maybe for Addo Khuffuor, the son of the former Ghanaian president.
Also named are present Syrian strongman, Bashar al Assad and his nephew; and Kojjo Annan, the son of former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, as has Khulubuse Zuma, the nephew of South African President, Jacob Zuma, who has just survived an impeachment process to remove him from power for violating the constitution and stealing a considerable amount of money to renovate his private Nkhandla residence.
It may come nearer home here. Of particular interest is the mention of the involvement of Oxfam in exposing the scam. Oxfam’s International Executive Director, is Winnie Byanyima, the wife of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leader, Kizza Besigye.
Sometime ago, Byanyima warned President Yoweri Museveni, to back off from harassing her husband, or she would reveal certain things. She never did reveal anything, but was she alluding to what has come to be part of the Panama Papers of Mossack Fonseca or the other law firms involved in the money laundering?
The mention of Gudhlafsonn, too, is interesting and maybe relevant. About eight years ago, the Iceland economy nearly collapsed after a reported sudden withdrawal of four billion dollars from its central bank because of the fear of the-then global financial crisis that was hitting Wall Street. That money may have been tied to Byelorussia and Russia, which had/have dealings with Ugandan politicians.
Russian President Vladmir Putin has been mentioned in the Panama Papers with the illicit transfer of funds to the Caribbean tax havens to avoid the sanctions imposed by the United States. So is North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, who is currently facing global sanctions because of his nuclear programme. He has salted away money to the Caribbean to finance the purchases of nuclear ingredients useful for his present war saber-rattling.
Global attention will be tuned for a considerable time to come on the Panama Papers as the ICIJ journalists continue to reveal what the world business and political leaders have been up to in diddling their concerns.