Hey oop! The media midges are on manoeuvres. Dive-bombing unsuspecting celebrity ankles; swarming with righteous innuendo; there is no escape from the garrulous gnats as they mix ‘tax avoidance’ with ‘tax evasion’ and tar every customer of the well established firm ofÂ Mossack FonsecaÂ with the suggestion of criminal activity.
An act that was initially described as the benign work ‘of a whistleblower’ turns out to be a grubby hack on the computer network of a firm of lawyers, whereby 11.5 million files were downloaded and offered to a German investigative journalist, who promptly shared them with those arch enemies of the art of hacking – the Guardian and the BBC.
One man’s whistleblower is another man’s hacker. Perhaps Clive Goodman was whistleblowing when he reported based onÂ a voicemail conversation betweenÂ Prince William and Tom Bradby? It obviously depends on who is doing the reporting!
Once you take your gaze away from the alluring click-baitÂ of famous names wriggling as they attempt to justify having an off-shore account, you are left with a situation whereby confidential files belonging to a firm of lawyers have been hacked and subsequently shared with ‘journalists from more than 80 countries’ on the grounds that this is a ‘moral good’ because some of them might have been engaged in wrong doing.
Can you imagine the outcry if the expensive motor cars of our Canary Wharf brethren returning from the half term ski trips were all comprehensively searched and the contents exposed to the world’s gaze – on the grounds that there was a chance that some would contain cocaine, or additional bottles of that nice Bordeaux that they hadn’t paid the tax on? Or NiqabÂ clad wives coming through Heathrow stripped and exposed to prurient gazeÂ on the grounds that their bomb might look big in that Burka?
When it comes to the ‘rich and powerful’, as the BBC was pleased to describe the hapless victims of this so called ‘leak’, both profiling and hacking are perfectly acceptable. Particularly given the chance to mention Putin and David Cameron’s deceased father in the same sentence. Incidentally, despite the worldwide coverage – Putin’s name doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the data.
I would remind readers thatÂ the Guardian’s view of off-shore accounts, tax avoidance, and mitigation of inheritance tax as practised by its founder CP Scott – becomes ‘surely one of the most selfless pieces of tax avoidance in media history’ when it benefits Guardian Media Group – and avoiding ‘ever having to pay tax in Britain‘ when practised byÂ David Cameronâs father.Â
So much hypocrisy.Â
Now that we have established that it is perfectly acceptable to hack the offices of a firm of lawyers in order to access personal information held on behalf of all their clients, perhaps we could move onto the computer systems of lawyers employed by some of these media giants. What crimes we could prevent! Remember there is barely a soul in Fleet Street who didn’t claim to have knownÂ ante-mortemÂ of Jimmy Saville’s alleged crimes.
Is it morally right that they should have kept quiet when the information concealed in their safes could have been shared with 80 journalists worldwide? Do you really think the North Korean Daily would have quaked in its shoes at the thought of publishing ‘the truth’?
Yet they have done it once again – look carefully at those reports in the media – this information was leaked to the media a year ago, say some, though others say it was up to date to the end of 2015.
Around 370 reporters from 100 media organisations have spent a year analysing and verifying the documents.
Amongst those documents are facsimiles of the passports of individuals who may have done nothing wrong – who exactly are these journalists that have been handed such personal information?
Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs have only just been handed their share of the files.Â Now that the media has had its celebrity click-bait, the tax office can get on with looking at whether anyone has actually done anything wrong.
Had the recipients handed these files over directly to the Tax Offices of the respective clients of Mossack Fosneca, I shouldn’t have been writing this article. It is the hypocritical cant of the media that has got to me. As usual.
So much for their moral high ground.
Is it only the rich who should pay every possible penny of tax that they could, or will all the owners of tax-free ISAs be queuing up to pay the tax they could have avoided? How about that nice plumber you just paid in cash?