The ‚Paradise Papers‘ are making headlines since November 2017. Half a year later, the first conclusions have been drawn: What does this data leak reveal that we did not already know?
1. The ‚Apple‘ case
At first glance, the publications paint a vivid picture of celebrities, the super-rich, politicians, and multinationals who are all using complex financial architectures to reduce their tax burden. Apple is one case in point. The name of the US technology icon appears in connection with expiring tax reliefs in Ireland. The Paradise Papers reveal how Apple searched for a new tax haven from 2013 onwards, and that it found the Channel Island Jersey. The company subsequently transferred the majority of its offshore cash holdings from about $ 250 billion there. Apple said in a statement that the company did not pay fewer taxes due to the relocation, but remained the largest taxpayer in the world and even paid corporate taxes in the amount of about $ 35 billion within a few years .
When the FIFA World Cup match between Brazil and Costa Rica takes place on 22 June 2018 or when the third place play-off takes places on 14 July 2018 – all of them in Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg – we shall also think of the approximately 110 North Korean forced labourers who built the stadium in slave-like conditions. However, not only in Russia or China, but also in the Czech Republic or in Polish shipyards, are North Korean forced labourers being deployed. According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, North Korea, with more than 100,000 forced labourers working outside North Korea, is the single country with the highest percentage of forced labourers in the world.
Imagine, that a favourite candidate for the Chancellor of Germany is campaigning with his party for the most powerful office in the country, but has already been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for corruption. Hardly imaginable? How about this: an incumbent chancellor has been charged with corruption. There is audio tapes showing that he has stashed millions of euros away. The Parliament, however, fails to rescind his immunity as the chancellor. Barely imaginable too? Both are now reality in Brazil, pertaining to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Michel Temer, respectively, who are political rivals. Whether red or black, liberal or social democratic, the country’s political elite have steadfastly refused to take responsibility for the sheer scale of political corruption. And the same judicial system, whose surprising effectiveness has thrown the corrupt Brazilian politics into the spotlight of court rulings, is also partly responsible for keeping the corrupt political system running. This is true despite the fact, that the Supreme Court`s sensational ruling yesterday rejected Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s plea to avoid prison.
Lúcio Bellentani is 72 years old. From 1964 to 1972 he worked at Volkswagen plant in São Paulo. Like his father, he was a member of the Communist Party and also very active in the labour union. By his account, he was 28 years old when he felt two machine gun barrels in his back while working. That was 1972. He was immediately handcuffed and taken directly to a room of the security department of the company, where he was later picked up by the political police. Bellentini was then taken from the VW plant to DOPS (Departamento de Ordem Política e Social) where he, by his own account, had been to regular torture in the first four months. According to Bellentani, he was then transferred to the OBAN (Operação Bandeirantes) torture center and later imprisoned, where he spent another two years of his life.
Socialist systems traditionally have the improvement of man on the plan. And those who are unable or do not want to improve are eliminated or at the present time, imprisoned. China is now using digitization to expand social control – in the best tradition of socialist systems. Currently, a scoring system has been introduced or is being tested in approximately 43 cities and districts to assess social behaviour. If you live alone in a large apartment, there is a deduction of points. It is better if you live together with many in a small apartment. Anyone driving alone to work with a large imported car, such as a Mercedes S-Class, gets fewer points than someone who uses a rented bike. And these are, however, the harmless examples. Those who accumulate too much debt or fail to repay can no longer ride high-speed trains or take flights in China. According to the Supreme People’s Court of China, 8.42 million attempts by debtors to take flights alone have been rebutted by the end of September 2017. But even this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Chinese government is now building a comprehensive social credit scoring system to reward and punish the social behaviour of its citizens. Anyone who does poorly in a rating can be restricted in all areas of life. “Lose credit somewhere, face restrictions everywhere”. George Orwell is trendy in China.
4161 Days. That is 592 weeks, 137 months or 11 and 2/5 years.
Such is how long a legal proceeding against corruption in Argentina takes on average. Not infrequently, these procedures fizzle out in the statute of limitations.
As a matter of fact, this means impunity in cases where a lot of money is involved and often wealthy representatives of the Argentine elite sit in the dock. More routine procedures, on the other hand, are quickly tried and convicted. While Europe and the US are grappling with the question of how to prevent corruption through more transparency, the problem in Argentina is more fundamental: what can be done to prevent offenses in the field of economic crime from being unpunished?
In the last decade, the term “integrity” hit the up escalator in the corporate world. In the boardroom of both Daimler and Volkswagen, there have been chairs established for Integrity and Legal Affairs. Compliance seems to be the slogan of yesterday. Now, integrity in the corporate world commands the order of the day. Searching „integrity management“ on Google Scholar and you get over 14,000 entries, over 13,000 of which alone are dated since 2000. Most of them are not addressing the homonymic IT-solution.
It’s mirroring a newly emerging consulting business and fashion of management. It looks like corporation are not only striving for compliance with rules, but also for moral perfection.
The accused was a renowned figure in Bottrop, a town in North Rhine-Westfalia. He is a veteran pharmacist licensed to produce cancer drugs. The pharmacist is accused of having diluted and adulterated the cancer drugs, so that they lost their effectiveness. According to the investigations by the public prosecutor‘s office in Essen, at least 3,700 patients are affected nationwide. However, due to the limitation period, only cases of the last five years were evaluated. According to the prosecution, this pharmacist from Bottrop had supplied 37 medical practices and clinics with falsely dosed anti-cancer medicines over the past five years. Most of them are located in North Rhine-Westphalia, but also in Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg, Saarland, Saxony and Lower Saxony. According to the research of Panorama and Correctiv, the accused pharmacist had, through adulterated cancer drugs in 60,000 cases in 2005, supplied more than 7,300 people with the 49 active ingredients that are currently listed as manipulated active ingredient by the Public Health Bureau of Bottrop (Stadt Bottrop 2017). Many patients do not seem to have been informed of this at all or much too late. Next Monday, the 13th of November, marks the opening of the trial of the pharmacist, who has been detained at the Wuppertal prison for one year. He has kept silence so far on all allegations.
In the starting episode of In People’s Name, by far the most popular soup opera broadcasted in China this year, a corrupt official defended himself adamantly upon being detained by crying loudly that “I was born to a peasant farmer family”. It turns out that this son of a Chinese peasant farmer family has happily stacked away fully 200 million RMB (€25 million) of cash under the mattress. Unfortunately, this is no playwright’s fantasy. Rather, it is but the artistic representation of a real story of a mid-ranking central-government official in charge of regulating coal mining. According to media reports, several automatic cash-counters burnt out due to overheating while counting this El Dorado in Shangri-La.
Sometimes, politics in Germany is more than arduous maneuvering or media-whitewashed standstill. Sometimes it is a great drama, or rather an well-versed chess game. And Angela Merkel once again showed us all with the diesel summit how it is played in Germany.