Could the CIA have leaked the Pandora Papers?

I blogged about the Pandora Papers, the leak of confidential documents that showed how the world’s ultra-wealthy, including prominent politicians, are hiding their money in various off-shore tax havens around the world. It did not go unnoticed that there were very few Americans who were named, while there was a high number of people who are considered enemies of the US, especially Russians. The benign reason given for this imbalance is that the US itself is now a tax haven, with the lax laws of states like Delaware, South Dakota, and Nevada making it unnecessary for Americans to send their money abroad.

But there is a less benign possibility and that it that the source of the leaked documents is the CIA. After all, hacking into systems and releasing damaging information on perceived enemies is all in a day’s work for that agency..
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Sri Lankan power couple named in Pandora Papers

Among the kleptocrats revealed in the recent Pandora Papers leak is a Sri Lankan couple, the wife of whom is a cousin to the president and prime minister (who are brothers) who have managed to amass a huge amount of wealth and sent it overseas.

In early 2018, workers in a London warehouse carefully loaded an oil painting of Lakshmi, the Hindu deity of wealth, onto a van bound for Switzerland.

The painting, by 19th-century Indian master Raja Ravi Varma, depicts the four-armed goddess clad in a red sari with gold ornaments and standing atop a lotus flower. It was one of 31 works of art, altogether worth nearly $1 million, that were being shipped to the Geneva Freeport in Switzerland. That vast, ultra-secure warehouse complex, larger than 20 soccer fields, stores among its many treasures what the BBC once called “the greatest art collection no one can see.”

The owner of “Goddess Lakshmi,” and the artworks in transit with it, as recorded on the packing slip, was a Samoan-registered shell company with an unremarkable name, Pacific Commodities Ltd. But a cache of leaked documents from Asiaciti Trust, a Singapore-based financial services provider, indicates that a politically connected Sri Lankan, Thirukumar Nadesan, secretly controls the company and thus is the true owner of the 31 pieces of art. His wife, Nirupama Rajapaksa, is a former member of Sri Lanka’s Parliament and a scion of the powerful Rajapaksa clan, which has dominated the Indian Ocean island nation’s politics for decades.
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Sri Lanka in deep crisis

Overshadowed by other world news such as the war in Ukraine, Sri Lanka has been in a state of deep crisis. The proximate cause is the depletion of foreign currency reserves to below $1 billion which has resulted in the country being unable to pay for the imports of some of the most basic commodities like fuel for both vehicles and cooking, fertilizer, and essential foodstuffs such as milk and sugar. Surgeries have been suspended due to a shortage of medical supplies. As a result of the shortage of fuel, there have been daily power blackouts lasting up to 13 hours (except in the capital city Colombo because of course the wealthy who live in those areas must never be inconvenienced) and long lines of people waiting for hours and sometimes even overnight trying to purchase fuel and food and even then coming up empty.
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A transnational kleptocratic class

Thanks to whistleblowers who released a trove of documents, a team of journalists led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has released the first reports of what it calls the Pandora Papers. (Readers may recall an earlier expose called the Panama Papers.)

It reveals how vast sums of money are spirited away by politicians and wealthy people all over the world into tax-havens. Over 330 politicians from 90 countries are named. The US has become one of the biggest locations for tax dodging because of its laws involving the use of trusts. (This may be why the Panama Papers revealed few US names as using off-shore tax havens. It is not that they are more scrupulous but that they don’t have to. All the tax dodges they need are within the US.) News reports are careful to point out that these transactions may not be illegal but that is not the point. The global oligarchy makes the laws and we should not be surprised that they then use those laws to benefit themselves. But key questions that can and should be raised is how they amassed such wealth in the first place and why governments are allowed to connive in these schemes.
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