Panama Papers Whistleblower Speaks Out


The person who leaked 11.5 million documents that reveal how the world’s wealthy individuals hide their assets in offshore accounts broke his silence Friday, defending the release, calling for protections for whistleblowers and urging governments to respond more forcefully to the revelations.

The source of the leak, still publicly known only as “John Doe,” wrote an 1,800-word missive for Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the first media outlet to accept the documents. They were later shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, or ICIJ, researched by 100 media organizations and became known as the Panama Papers.

The Consortium said it plans to release on Monday a searchable database about “more than 200,000 companies, trusts, foundations and funds incorporated in 21 tax havens, from Hong Kong to Nevada in the United States.”

The source wrote that he has never worked for any government or intelligence agency, directly or as a contractor. Instead, the source simply had access to the documents and understood the level of criminality they exposed.

“The collective impact of these failures has been a complete erosion of ethical standards, ultimately leading to a novel system we still call Capitalism, but which is tantamount to economic slavery,” the source wrote. “In this system — our system — the slaves are unaware both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart where the intangible shackles are carefully hidden amongst the reams of unreachable legalese. The horrific magnitude of detriment to the world should shock us all awake.”

The source pointed much of his anger at the United States, from its handling of whistle-blowers to the way federal and state governments look the other way on issues related to corruption.

The piece lamented the treatment of Edward Snowden, the American government contractor who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013 that exposed how the government monitors American citizens. After he was charged with espionage in the U.S., he was granted asylum in Russia, where he remains.

“For his revelations about the NSA, (Snowden) deserves a hero’s welcome and a substantial prize, not banishment,” the source wrote. “Legitimate whistle-blowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution, full stop.”

The source also questioned why the U.S. and other countries have not responded to the Panama Papers with new laws designed to force shell companies to reveal their owners. Some states, such as Nevada and Wyoming, allow companies to be registered without publicly providing the names of their owners. And while some in Congress and state legislatures have tried to end that practice, nothing has been changed.

“The United States can clearly no longer trust its fifty states to make sound decisions about their own corporate data,” the source wrote. “It is long past time for Congress to step in and force transparency by setting standards for disclosure and public access.”

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SOURCE: USA Today, Alan Gomez

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