Kings, bumps, arms dealers, religious sects, artists and businessmen evading their money to tax havens … This Pandora’s box is prolific in lavish characters in those self-gifts (doro, gift in Greek), so pleasing, in exemplary, to the compliant taxpayer.
But the brightest novelty since the Panama Papers is that now there are finance ministers who have sheltered thousands or millions of euros in the secret and suspicious emporiums of the Virgin Islands, those of the English Channel and other dens of perdition. In other words, leaders who by trade require their fellow citizens to pay taxes at home, do exactly the opposite with their personal assets.
The most beautiful case is that of the Dutch Christian Democrat Wopke Hoekstra, who invested (2010) in Candace, a company based in the Virgins when he was a senator, increased that investment (2013/14) and kept it until 2017, the year in which he was appointed. Minister. He says that a week before acceding to the Government he disinvested. He says he told him privately to premier, Mark Rütte, but hid it from Parliament.
This week he did not dare to attend the Eurogroup, although he justified it by the negotiations to form a new government, which have, alas, for months, but his presence had to be so key that he could not escape for a couple of days, for the meetings in which his colleagues, timely, reduced the size of the list of … tax havens.
The wonderful thing about Hoekstra is that it justifies your investment offshore in his ignorance that Candace resided in a paradise. And he tries to whitewash it by claiming that the dividends were dedicated to an NGO against cancer.
You remember this hero, right? He is the one who, at the beginning of the pandemic crisis, blocked a European economic recovery plan that would benefit those in the South, and recommended that the Commission investigate the countries “that had not strengthened their economies to have sufficient reserves.” Not like him, such a frugal ant that he kept them safely on the other Atlantic shore.
In defense of this iscariot, it should be remembered that his fault is more general, since the Netherlands under his aegis was classified by the European Parliament as “one of the jurisdictions that facilitate abusive tax planning” (3/8/19). And that complicity with tax evasion detracts from Spain an annual 4% of the collection in corporation tax; 3% to Italy and 7% to Germany, according to the expert Gabriel Zucman (The missing profit of nations, NBER, 2018).
There is more. The current prime minister of the Czech Republic (note the immediate elections), Andrej Babis, was also his country’s finance minister, of which he is the second richest man and perhaps the most influential: he controls two key newspapers.
As prime minister and head of the Treasury, he has maintained the investment he made in 2009 since Monaco’s fiscal hell in a beautiful French residence, the Chateau Bigaud, and seven neighboring estates. His declaration of assets omits these trifles, but his henchmen say he meets all the legal requirements, the usual ethereal cant in these cases.
Another illustrative novelty of these papers is the elevation of the rank of intermediaries, who are no longer limited to local lawyers skilled in cheating the treasury. They bring to light the actions of the first US law firm, Baker & McKenzie, advising arms manufacturers and companies such as Apple or Facebook in these worthy practices.
The firm acts as a lobby In favor of lax tax laws, it infiltrates governments and institutions. And it ensures, as all those involved do, that it seeks to “guarantee” that its “clients adhere to both the law and best practices.” Surely unbeatable.
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