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Had it not been for the digital age, the world would not have seen this humongous cache of documents.  ’An almost perfect tale for the twenty-first century – the failure of democracy, the triumph of commercial power & greed, greed, greed.’  This is what Nick Davies, correspondent, Guardian has to say on Panama Papers. Now, a bigger leak, more papers, more names –  the narrative remains the same.

 Paradise Papers are a cache of 13.4 million  documents, made public after 18  months of Panama Papers. Both sets of data were obtained by  German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.  Later it was investigated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.  (ICIJ)  They worked in partnership with 96 news organisations. The nature of  collaboration is praiseworthy & so is the ultimate level of secrecy  in a humungous collaborative exercise.  It forebodes well for the world.

Large number of documents come from  Appleby, a Bermuda-based legal services provider.  Like the two firms named in the Panama Papers , this firm  facilitated  setting up of offshore firms at very low or no tax.  Singapore-based Asiaciti  was the second firm which helped wealthy to move money to tax havens.  714 Indians  figure on the list including Jayant Sinha & Amitabh Bachchan, with India ranking  19th of the 180 countries  named. Queen Elizabeth also figures in the list with lots of other known public figures in the UK.

It’s the irony of our times that much touted  transparency & mature financial regime  of democratic counties coexist with  equally well established tax havens  facilitated by renowned legal services providers in this field. This mechanism got created by design or default, does not matter.  These leaders / public figures are extracting the best of both the worlds.  This has to stop to prove our faith in probity of public life. Lip service has to end otherwise these acts of painstaking investigative journalism will end up in a nought.


Sanjay Sahay

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