Looking at the documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca and one thing is clear: Britain’s network is once again at the core. More than half of the companies listed in the documents are registered in the UK or its Overseas Territories, and Hong Kong plays a huge role.
Of course, this shouldn’t be surprising. Britain has for for a while now been thought to be the global capital for money laundering. And it’s no shock that nothing has been done about it. In 2010, two years after they crashed the global economy, the City paid for more than half of the Conservative party’s election campaign, helping (along with the aforementioned Lord Ashcroft) them limp them over the line, with a Lib Dem shaped crotch. Though, of course, Labour did little to regulate in the previous 13 years.
If we want to understand modern Britain, first we need to realise that our primary economic function in the world is probably our network of tax havens. After all, around $21tn is estimated to sit in offshore accounts, of which Britain’s territories are said to make up by far the biggest part. Our own GDP is only around $3tn.
Second, we need to get to grips with the serious claims about our role as the global money laundering capital: a function which pushes up the price of the pound, making other exports unaffordable (bye bye steel), and drives up the cost of houses in London and the South East, fuelling a vast speculative bubble which sucks investment out of the rest of the economy.
And third, we need to think about how this gradually dawning economic reality interacts with our politics: not through the obvious corruption of direct bribery, but through revolving doors between government and civil service, through old boy’s networks and friendship groups, through perfectly legal election donations and media domination.
Source: Panama papers: “an old tradition of English piracy” | openDemocracy