Panama Papers – Experience from the front

Panama Papers - Experience from the front

What a rapid development! Day 3 of the Panama Papers scandal and it already has its own hashtag (or a number of them)! It potentially brought down its first government – the dramatic fall from grace of Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Iceland’s Prime Minister. It has spilled the beans on a host of powerful, wealthy and famous (some would argue now infamous) people. But what does it actually mean? ACI President Jason Deegan looks beyond the hashtags and stuttering interviews of prime ministers.

The phased introduction of the stories has angered some and made others very happy. For the average person (including ourselves), however, this decision makes for much more stable reading. The thought alone of delving into 11.5 million documents simultaneously would be a daunting prospect. I am sure that looking back after the release of all documents in May 2016, we will appreciate the decision to phase the introduction.

While many big names are potentially pulling all the levers of powers hoping that they can stop themselves suffering the same fate of those who have gone before them, we in ACI can only hope that there is no faint heart, no documents on the powerful kept from the public view.

Our Reactions to the Leaks

What we have seen, and what we have felt here in ACI, is, at first, a sense of disbelief. How could such a major occurrence go on for 40 years (albeit more pronounced in the later years) and not raise eyebrows? If this is but one case of one law firm in one place, how many potential documents are still kept secret? How many documents of this kind are generated as I type or as you read?

After disbelief, we moved on to a feeling of sad familiarity. Many hashtags and tweets were filled with a sense of “Are you surprised?” and no, we were not. Many of us in ACI are in their 20’s and remember only too well the great financial collapse of 2008. I, myself, recall the ripple effects rather suddenly back in Ireland where I watched pundit after pundit describing that this is how it has been working for years. When we watched films such as The Big Short, The Wolf of Wall Street or Syriana (which has the infamous line “Corruption is why we win”) we simply accepted this as the rules of a rigged game.

This Time We Should Not Let it Start Again

For too long, we have accepted the rules of a rigged game. Most recently, we as ACI members have been watching with excitement the power of people demanding accountability and transparency on the streets of Reykjavik. If there is one thing we hope for, it is that this power continues to spread from Reykjavik to the world. For too long, we have seen corruption as “how these guys function”. I believe the Panama Papers scandal is the time to say “No More!”.

This means we will not simply stop after putting out petitions to sign or making our case online. We will go further. It is important that activism, true activism, highlights that the Panama Papers scandal is not a case that time will simply allow to drift off. We have seen too often for the game to start again, once our eyes or clicks change to the next channel. It must not happen again.

Implications from What We Have Learnt

With the revelations of the Panama Paper scandal we can reconstruct the real world impacts of a system allowing to hide money. It enables dictators and tyrants to bypass sanctions. It allows for the most vulnerable in societies around the world to suffer more while ever more intricate schemes are used to ensure that wealth is kept from view. Indeed, we have seen the people, who should be ensuring that no wealth is hidden, being involved in hiding their own wealth. This is a conflict of interest. We call it corruption.

To quote one of the greatest rockstars of the generation before my own:
“It is the duty of the youth to challenge corruption” – Kurt Cobain

I can think of no better time to start challenging it than right now.

– Jason Deegan
Anti Corruption International President

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