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Captivating about the theft from the public purse

The Panama Papers
Regissør: Alex Winter

The Panama Papers emerge as a captivating thriller about the worldwide scam that led to a multi-billion dollar tax escape.


The story of how a small team of German grave journalists stumbled across the scoop of their lives and shared it with hundreds of colleagues around the world The Panama Papers into a captivating film.

Alex Winter's documentary is like a thriller where the suspense builds up slowly but surely. As in a fascinating lawsuit, we are witnessing a massive leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co. led to a series of arrests and the fall of some of the world's most powerful.

This is a film showing the worldwide tax evasion business worth many billions, systematic legal fraud and corruption among lawyers, bankers and politicians, in the performance of the anonymous announcer "John Doe" (which actor Elijah Wood gives voice to ) calls "capitalism, like economic slavery".

1 percent of the world's wealthiest now owns greater values ​​than the remaining 99 percent combined.

Just the extent of lost tax revenue – over $ 200 billion annually in the United States and other Western countries – helps explain why the last few decades have been so kind to the extremely wealthy. 200 percent of the world's wealthiest now owns greater values ​​than the remaining 1 percent combined.

This is a film that reveals the disturbing human costs of this grisly and obscene theft from the public purse. It's a movie that should be shown in every city, slum, village and every square in the world. It deserves the widest possible coverage and international television viewing in the best broadcast time.

The Panama Papers also sheds light on the invaluable role of journalists in a time when dark forces on the outer right are desperate to promote a "post-fact" agenda, where "truth" is no longer considered to have any meaning or value.

Money laundering for high profile clients

The source of the Panama Papers leak was a hitherto unknown law firm, Mossack Fonseca & Co., founded in 1977, which was run on a simple and shamelessly profitable principle. The business idea was kept secret, and for no more than $ 1000 you could buy an offshore straw company, run it with appointed bosses and hide the real owners of billions in cash and other assets through complicated series of loans and transfers between different straw companies around the world.

Mossack Fonseca & Co. help with tax evasion and money laundering for clients that included Vladimir Putin's best friend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Icelandic counterpart, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson.

The unwelcome attention surrounding the Panama Papers helped to throw off both Sharif and Gudmundsson. The turning point for the latter is duly included in Winter's film – we see Gudmundsson storming out in rage after being pressured while a television camera films the entire performance.

Others who were exposed to the excellent reporting from a team that grew to over 370 journalists worldwide were the British Prime Minister David Cameron, who lied about the beneficial use of an offshore family company. He resigned shortly after British voters with a narrow majority agreed to leave the EU in the referendum on "Brexit" in 2016.

The Panama Papers also helped overthrow the corrupt president of Brazil and created widespread public anger in Venezuela. None of these countries have done well since: Last autumn, the Brazilians elected a right-wing demagogue who had declared war on drug traffickers and the environment (as well as the rights of indigenous peoples); Venezuela's incompetent socialist president Nicolás Maduro is still standing firm against an internationally backed attempt to force him to resign.

Maltese blogger and digging journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was not part of the Panama Papers journalism team, but who nevertheless uncovered the alleged corruption of the EU member state islander, died in October 2017, when the car she was driving , exploded.

Advocates against corrupt governments

Part of the problem is that the endemic corruption that has created a world in which eight billionaires now own as much as fifty percent of the world's poorest, actually "owns" the political leaders of most nations. The people's distrust of politicians is greater than ever, and in their confusion, voters turn to populist politicians who lie about easy solutions and simple scapegoats: migrants, established politicians and criminals.

The real criminals are rich and corrupt public figures, bankers, lawyers and financiers.

The real criminals, as Alex Winter's film describes in detail, are sugar-rich and corrupt public figures, bankers, lawyers and financiers who are behind the new global system of "forced economic slavery".

Going back a hundred years, Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik Party seized power in Russia and sought through the Soviet Union to provide a Marxist answer to the diseases that accompanied capitalism in the 1800th century. As a product of outstanding talent, but spoiled by an egoistic and bitter envy, the Soviet Union failed precisely because it was a product of the psyche – of the ego.

The vanguard of the coming changes in the 21st century, in response to the diseases of 20th century capitalism and globalization, is instead a product of the heart, as expressed in the spontaneous demonstrations that are now erupting among the very young. Teenagers protest against climate change, political corruption and other signs of disease throughout Europe.

These are young people who are terrified of the lies and passivity of their ancestors, and who shed a whole new light on the hideous sides of a narrow, yet very prosperous layer of parents and grandparents.

Neoliberal billionaires around the world know that their days are numbered, and as Winter's film suggests in the final minutes, they are so driven by their grim greed and unconscious evil that they are reluctant to give up their vile lifestyle without first causing even more destruction.

The Panama Papers opens HUMAN International Documentary Film Festival,
25. February to 3. March 2019

See the film's website.

Nick Holdsworth
Nick Holdsworth
Holdsworth is a writer, journalist and filmmaker.

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