Friday 8th April: The Panama papers have been used to imply that offshore tax havens serve the main function of dubious tax dodging. Yet many who seek to preserve and enhance their wealth overseas do so perfectly legally. Modern states need individuals to create, preserve and enhance wealth. Drive them away and the nation will pay the price, writes Stanley Brodie QC.
The furore generated by the disclosure of the Panama Papers seems unreal, and in some respects farcical. It is assumed by commentators, such as Tom Bradby and Robert Peston (on television the 5th April), that the fact that a British citizen has deposited funds or assets with or through the law firm of Massock Fonseca itself suggests wrongdoing of some kind; in particular the innuendo is that the motivation for using its services is to conceal taxable assets or revenues from the tax authorities in the United Kingdom. The secrecy usually associated with such transactions is a factor pointing towards some kind of impropriety. Panama is labelled by commentators as a tax haven, as if that were sufficient to make the deposit of money or assets there by a British citizen immediately suspect. It is to be noted that thus far there is no suggestion that any of the clients of Massock Fonseca (including the Prime Minister’s late father) has engaged in any unlawful conduct or concealment.