The Panama Papers Barely Scratch the Surface of UK Complicity in a Global Scandal

By Graham Vanbergen and cross-posted from True Publica

The recent revelation resulting from the Panama Papers is nothing new.  It just helps to highlight the sheer scale of criminality being perpetrated by those wealthy enough to benefit. What we are witnessing from a tiny country, nestled neatly between North and South America, is a glimpse of a global money laundering fest on a truly oceanic scale.

There are 82 countries listed globally as tax havens or jurisdictions of financial secrecy. Collectively Britain is the number one on the list of offenders, mainly because of its extensive overseas territories such as Jersey, Isle of Man, Gibraltar etc. In reality, though, Britain is now itself a tax haven.

Since the Conservative government got their knees under the table, George Osborne has systematically gone about creating what is effectively a territorial tax system for companies and organisations thus ensuring that no UK-based multinational pays taxation in the UK on profits arising to it from outside the country. Of course, the organisation itself has to deliberately go about structuring itself to achieve that goal, but once done, they are shielded from the deliberately lethargic tax office (HMRC).

Osborne also created the ‘patent box scheme’ which initially sounded like it was protecting British inventions and intellectual property but in reality just facilitated yet more corporate tax reduction. One only has to look at the banking industry where British-based banks pay more taxes in different countries than they do in the UK, or Google, Facebook and others in a long line of recent tax scandals.

If confirmation were needed, here is just one example of the tax evading smoking gun as reported by

In July the Financial Times reported: “[US pharmaceutical company] AbbVie has sealed its proposed £32bn takeover of Shire, the UK-listed speciality pharmaceuticals company, in one of the biggest deals so far to involve a US company shifting its tax residence overseas… AbbVie said that, while its administrative headquarters would remain in Chicago and its listing in New York, the merged entity would be incorporated in the Channel Island of Jersey and have its tax residence in the UK.”

In 2008 Shire left the UK for tax purposes. Then the object was to avoid any chance of UK tax arising under proposed changes to controlled foreign company laws by the then Labour government, changes that might have hit companies with substantial intellectual property (like Shire) hard. Labour did not have the courage to put through those changes that are still so obviously needed to tackle international tax abuse. But Shire left for Ireland anyway.

And now it’s on its way back for tax purposes. It will use Jersey to save stamp duty. And tax haven UK does very nicely for all other purposes.

As we have reported on a number of occasions, Her Majesty’s British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies make up around 25 per cent of the world’s tax havens, which are now blacklisted by the European Commission and ranked as the most important player of financial secrecy in the world. The revelations contained in the Panama Papers is a drop in a much larger cess pool of crime and the likes of Britain’s Prime Minister and his right hand man at the Exchequer swim in it…

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