The news has been circling the world for a couple of weeks following the massive leak of 11 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The documents contained information we already knew, summed up best by Noel Cowerd in The Italian Job: ‘Camp Freddie, everybody in the world is bent.‘ Or, to put a little more accuracy on it, every member of the super-rich elite is bent.
UK writer and journalist Yasmin Alibai-Brown has already asked one pertinent question. If these people are doing nothing wrong why the need for secrecy? But in a BBC debate a second pertinent question was raised. Who did the leaking and why now?
After all who would benefit from the fallout? We already knew that the term honest politician was an oxymoron. Places like the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands had become household names and bywords for tax avoidance. We didn’t need a link of this magnitude to remind us that people who hide their money are up to no good and that the banks, accountants and law firms who help the villains are equally villainous.
In an attempt to get to the source of the leak Alien Noise’s news subsidiary (registered in the non-tax haven of Groningen) sent its investigative journalists who can’t be named to interview leading conspiracy theorists for clues.
“Look at the names implicated,” says Richie Paul speaking via an encrypted Skype link from his nuclear proof bunker in Wellington. “The Chinese government, Putin and folk close to Assad in Syria. It’s the US government again, heaping pressure on their political enemies.”
But the US has it’s very own tax haven in the form of Delaware. “If the leak is US-based,” says Marlon Cratey in Nevada, “it’ll be the CIA fed up chasing dirty money from pillar to post and getting no help from their bent paymasters on Capitol Hill.”
Cratey discovered evidence of UFOs in outer space, so knows what he’s talking about, and an intelligence leak has a logic to it. But when one considers how long it took the FBI to figure out how to turn on an iPhone it makes you wonder if the US intelligence community has the brains to find Panama let alone crack the systems of the third largest offshore tax haven arranging law firm in the world.
Competitors, if you ask Brian41654, a Brighton-based hacktivist in Dover, England. 41654, who unsuccessfully applied for asylum in France in 2013, has followed the Fonseca story since it broke. “Like a lot of law firms they shared client data with other law firms engaged in PPI compensation and whiplash injury claims. Someone at a rival firm has seen an opportunity and rubbished a competitor. What kind of tax avoiding villain is going to do business with Fonseca now? They’re a busted flush.”
41654 offered to sell us a special hat before we left, but his hypothesis made the most sense so far. In a cut throat world, with greater pressure on tax avoidance reducing the market, law firms must be under increasing pressure to get their hands on a dwindling but still lucrative customer base. Better to knobble the opposition than invest in a risky marketing campaign.
We were all set to come back to the office in Groningen when we were followed onto the car park at the Hoegevroeven Service Station just outside Rotterdam. A couple in a large black Audi bought us coffee and pointed out to us that the leaks coincided with the first leg of Toten Herzen’s Malandanti world tour. They were in central America.
“The Malandanti has a lot of antagonists in half the ruling elite,” the man said. He refused to give his name. We asked about the other half. “The Malandanti own the other half.”
His assertion was that the Malandanti wanted to scatter the assets of the elite by spreading panic through the infrastructure: the law firms, the middle men, the stooges. Undermine the structures they use to move their assets about. The tactic is similar to wartime bombing of roads and railway lines, communication posts, supply routes.
“By hitting Mossack Fonseca they’ve sent a message that they can hit these databases of people who thought their business dealings were invisible. Industrialists, politicians, bankers, if they’re not in the grip of the Malandanti, their identity and assets will never be secure.”
He went on to outline several other revelations: the Volkswagen scandal, Facebook’s ‘triple-Dutch’ u-turn, turmoil at FIFA, HSBC’s involvement in Mexican money laundering. It wasn’t the institutions being targeted, but senior individuals who had fallen foul of the Malandanti either through informer activity or not paying their ‘fees’ on time.
Late into the night, having returned to an empty office, we considered the information provided by our mystery couple. We asked why they wanted us to know about Malandanti involvement. The organisation, formed in the late 17th Century, was itself undergoing radical internal changes and a lot of the old brigade, as he called them, were being cast out or killed. A purge of Stalinesque proportions. He said the Fonseca leak was the first of a number of upheavals planned for 2016, but wouldn’t offer any further clues.
US government, unlikely. CIA, possibly. Business rival, probably. But Malandanti, a restructuring Malandanti, hopefully not.