Frank Flannery caught in the mega net of the Panama Papers…

The 2009 Westminster expenses scandal just got eclipsed, and by some way. 11.5 million files have been leaked to Mossack Fonseca, a law firm operating in the tax havens of Switzerland, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands, and in British dependencies Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

It is the world’s fourth biggest provider of offshore services, favoured by the rich and famous who want to find creative and inventive ways of hiding their wealth: or put another way avoiding (evasion is largely a domestic office for the poor, the bewildered and the desperate) tax liabilities.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 08.00.15It’s a properly global scoop from the Guardian and is likely to be creating headlines right across the world for weeks ahead. Mr Putin already has a $2bn figure lodged against his name. Intriguingly, it no only tells how much he has but how he’s been spreading it around.

Others in the frame are David Cameron’s late father Ian, Lord Ashcroft, Baroness Pamela Sharples and former Tory MP Michael Mates.

The data covers nearly 40 years, from 1977 to the end of 2015, and lists nearly 15,600 paper companies set up for clients who wanted to keep their financial affairs secret. An awful lot of material, we may be hearing only of the tip of a very large iceberg.

It looks like the Irish Times have been given a piece of the action, with Colm Keena chasing down former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery over the involvement of a BVI company called International Funding Promotions Ltd in a London house purchase…

The leaked Panama Papers include two signed letters from Joe Holden of Bank of Ireland Private Banking, London, to Frank Flannery and his wife, dated April 29th, 1996. The first is a letter of offer which says the bank will give the couple a term loan of up to £625,000 to be used to purchase a house in London for £615,000, with the £10,000 excess being for legal and other fees.

The terms and security, set out in the letter, include a charge over the property, life cover of £400,000 for each of the borrowers for the term of the loan, and other issues. The letter cites an eight-year term, and refers to 96 monthly payments of £4,036.45 per month, variable, ie depending on how interest rates change.

That number of monthly repayments of that amount would total £387,499.20. Mr Flannery and his wife signed the letter on May 1st, and 2nd, respectively, the leaked files show. A second letter signed by Mr Holden referred to the first one of the same date and concerned additional security he said the bank would rely on.

This involved an account of an unnamed offshore company (“domiciled in Jersey”) holding £250,000. The letter said the agreement will secure for the bank any interest on the £250,000 for the duration of the loan, save an amount in the region of £2,000 to £3,000 per annum for running the trust structure behind the offshore company.

Hmmmm. Poor Frank. But for clarity (and proportion), in the UK’s relatively well (in comparison to Ireland) resourced HMRC has only prosecuted 11 offshore tax evaders in the last eleven years. As Jolyon Maugham points out their attitude towards the wealthy is, erm, interesting:

For scale, we know that the HSBC disclosures led to HMRC becoming aware of the names of 3,600 potential evaders – and in consequence HMRC “encouraged” 500 people to take advantage of the Liechtenstein Amnesty. Offshore tax evasion really has been, as Margaret Hodge put it,  “a risk worth taking” (see Question 102 here).

This is a well established, well resourced and wholly internationalised culture, so: don’t hold your breath…


  • On the fence!

    Is this really earth-shattering news????? Personally, I’ve known for a long time that the worlds “great and good” exist on a completely different level in all respects to a little minion like me at the bottom of the food chain. Confirmation and/or fine detail of who and how doesn’t really matter, …………………but maybe that’s just me.

    Must dash, rates bill to pay!!!!!!

  • Anglo-Irish

    We all knew that this kind of thing has been going on since God’s dog was a pup, the difference today is that we are getting to know about it.

    Politicians are less than scrupulously honest? We knew, but the fact that 52% of them had to pay back expenses put a bit of meat on the bones.

    Prince Andrew is an obnoxious waste of self regarding space, we knew, wiki leaks confirmed it.

    FIFA was/is corrupt, well to be fair that caught us all by surprise, that Sepp Blatter what a lovely guy, who knew?

    Well every single person that took even a passing interest in football knew but until the FBI took an interest we didn’t get details.

    Putin? Bet that took everyone by surprise!

    This latest set of revelations is going to provide fun for all the family for some time to come.

    Given two choices which do you think will be the outcome,’ the great and the good’ clean up their act, pay their dues and we all live happily ever after Or new improved more secure and duplicitous ways and means of concealing assets are devised?

    Yeah, me too.

  • Barney

    “Mr Putin already has a $2bn figure lodged against his name. Intriguingly, it no only tells how much he has but how he’s been spreading it around.”

    This is not true, there has been as much evidence produced against Putin as Bryson produced against Robinson ie none at all. The fact that that once great paper still employs Harding (and I must say Henry as well) speaks volumes about the Scott trust.

    I’m no fan of Putin but I recognise propaganda when I see it.

  • Nevin

    Will ‘on the cello’ supersede ‘on the fiddle’?

  • Nevin

    “Who’s behind the leak and why and to what end?”

    Indeed, Gf; I suppose you might also ask which papers have, er, sat on this story.

    The documents were received by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Novaya Gazeta. .. source

  • On the fence!

    Right enough, look at the upheaval there was at Westminster following the expenses scandal,……………………….NOT!

    Did Esther Rantzen even keep her deposit at the next GE?

    Something for journos to fuss over and earn their days wages, and for any politicos with immunity from it (which will probably be unsurprisingly few!) to point score off. Other than that, maybe grumpy old man rant material??????

  • Barney

    The US Government and vanity projects from Soros do not make impartial sources particularly so when the target is an enemy of both.

    The reporting is disgraceful, Putin is not mentioned once (in the leaked papers) yet he is pasted across front pages because his daughter was married in a ski resort. It is similar to somehow linking Cameron to Jack the Ripper because he visited Whitechapel.

    The papers are very careful to make no direct allegations because no evidence of wrong doing exists, instead they have opted for a mud throwing exercise which is convenient for both the US Government and George Soros.

    Until some evidence is produced these revelations remain propaganda

  • Thomas Barber

    Not one US citizen on the list. I guess we’re to believe every nationality except Americans are tax dodgers.

  • Anglo-Irish

    And the Swiss, also above reproach I think you’ll find.

  • Thomas Barber

    You learn something new everyday Anglo. Obviously the Swiss are as cute or powerful as the Yanks when it comes to pulling the wool over peoples eyes.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Cute is selling it short where the Swiss are concerned. They did a deal with the Pope back in the day and have been the worlds bankers for the rich and dodgy ever since.

    Brilliant strategy, dictators, criminals, international tax dodging corporations, jewel thieves, all deposit their money in Swiss accounts.

    Many of them never make it out alive, who gets the money?

  • Thomas Barber

    Like all those tax havens otherwise known as Crown dependencies its usually Mrs Windsors employers – The Crown. What a bunch of hypocrites those British establishment types, like the Camerons family. Being compensated millions for the loss of hundreds of slaves and now tax dodging, we’ll probably hear in another few years they were also drug lords.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Nothing would surprise me anymore. At least some people are waking up to what’s been going on for a very long time.

    Front page of today’s Times the headline refers to Cameron’s father and the details include the fact that his father had a multimillion pound offshore ‘investment fund’ which paid no British tax for 30 years.

    And this is the class of people who are running the country and insisting that the rest of us play the game by the rules.

  • Barney

    Questions have to be asked about the credibility and quality of the Journalists involved in reviewing these stolen documents. After almost a year they decided the headline story was Putin, an individual not named in the documents.

    The initial propaganda impact (and primary purpose of the leak) has weakened the big story staring everyone in the face.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Classic distraction technique, Putins a Bond style villain, ex KGB and always taking his shirt off while killing bears.

    Meanwhile, back in our rather mundane world a lot of boring people most of us have never heard of but happen to be part of our establishment are at it like thieves.

    Our current chancellor speaking before engaging brain.

  • Anglo-Irish

    At one point in history the Swiss were the most feared mercenaries in Europe, renown for their fierce massed rank pike attacks they cut swathes through opponents defences.

    They were employed to great effect by several countries and tended to influence the outcome in favour of whoever had hired them on that particular occasion.

    Technology eventually turned the tide against them pikes being no match for rifles and cannon as the boys in Wexford found out.

    Switzerland then turned to the other meaning of mercenary as in motivated only by personal gain.

    No one invades them because all the morally bankrupt politicians and dictators that are the ones who order invasions have treasure hidden away in Swiss accounts and invasion would make them actually bankrupt.

    Got to admire the way it’s been set up really and they have the added bonus of some of their depositors meeting a sticky ending before being able to redeem their ill gotten gains.

    Wonder what arrangement they have in place for when that happens and no arrangements have been put in place for beneficiaries because they trusted no one?

    Return of all wealth to the people of the country it was stolen from, or divvy it up between various Swiss bankers?

    Your guess is as good as mine on that one.

  • Anglo-Irish

    You’d probably get the same odds on both of those from Paddy Power.

  • Thomas Barber

    We can thank those who engineered and supported the Glorious revolution for the biggest tax haven of them all –