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Opinions Tue, 19 Apr 2016

These Panama Papers: Avoiding or evading taxes?

By Cletus D Kuunifaa

And these, too, came to pass…phew… and the world has witnessed yet another major data leak in which it is alleged helping some of the rich and famous hide their money from the world’s tax men. This one leak appeared to be the most constructed significant data leak coming on the heels of WikiLeaks some years thereafter. And Edward Snowden could not have put it semantically better than this, “Biggest leak in the history of data journalism just went live, and it's about corruption.” ( http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/en/)

For the records and from a pure data point of view, the Panama Papers stunts anything previously released. There are 2.6 terabytes of information detailing 214,000 businesses, 14,000 intermediaries and reaches back to 1977 as reported by The Next Web (TNW).com.

And from what is unfolding so far, these papers have entrapped both current and former leaders, ensnarered 61 relatives and associates of country leaders, 128 public officials, 29 Forbes listed billionaires, and names more than 202 countries, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Most conspicuous victims behind the invoices, emails and paper trails are Prime Minister David Cameron of UK, Vladimir Putin and his coterie, Chinese President, Fifa’s newly elected top official, Giani Infantino, to mention but a few.

Coming home to Africa regarding these Panama Papers, victims have also been identified with Ghana having been fingered in this affair in John Addo Kufour, son of Ghana’s former president who has been accused of corruption various times over the course of his career. An account managed by Mossack Fonseca was worth about $75,000 while other documents link him to a host of other entities reported by http://www.okayafrica.com/news/panama-papers-african-leaders/. The other Ghanaian mentioned is Kojo Annan, the son of former United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, connected to various other companies though it’s unclear what they do.

In all of this data leak affair, most to the annoyance of some of us is what is considered to be unfair, the way the world media focused on the victims in Africa, but going silent altogether on victims right under their noses. Listening to RFI the other day, one is dismayed about the hammering of South African President Jacob Zuma and other African victims as if the sky was falling on Africa, while we have victims from other parts of the world who are probably candidates for impeachable offences in Prime Ministers, in Presidents, as well as heads of world governing institutions who have been fingered in the Panama documents cache.

Africa has come of age and we are tired of these neo-media tendencies designed to the disadvantage of Africa. A case in point: How often do we see these selected pictures of malnourished impoverished children on TV screens on Sunday mornings as props for sympathy for soliciting for funds? Can these organizations employ realistic pictures of sane looking individuals and still appeal to donors to give genuinely?

While condemning this disproportionate media attack on the African victims by western media to the neglect of their own in this data leak, it is however hoped that African governments would launch investigations into the individuals named in the documents and possibly to recover money if there is proof of illegality, proof of illegality.

This brings us to the issue of tax avoidance or evasion. Without a doubt, neither of the two is a good recommendation and government must crack down on tax avoidance and tax evasiveness. Of course, the amounts of monies involved in Ghana’s case is might just be a little drop in the ocean as compared to the millions and billions stashed by other countries’ victims. In fact, I’m not sure, if these two Ghanaians fingered in the data leak cache are the only victims of abuse of the system as there might be some folks stashing huge sums of monies elsewhere unbeknownst to us.

These unknown tax havens and cash stash strike at the heart of the very political and financial system in our country which by the way, we all believe to be unpatriotic, unfair and unjust. Tax havens, bank secrecy, tax evasions must not be at the heart of mainstream politics.

Here is what we can do to avoid capital flight situations: There is need to delve into the root causes of the phenomenon and make taxes favorable to businesses and investors. Government must make use of taxes efficiently and effectively to deliver services for the citizenry. We need in Africa, tax free zones as well as tax havens, where liquid money invested can be protected from internal economic rigors like mismanagement and imprudent fiscal measures, hyperinflation etc

Cletus D Kuunifaa

TMC Group

Can be contacted at dipnibe@yahoo.com, dipnibe@gmail.com or follow him on twitter@ckuunifaa

Columnist: Kuunifaa, Cletus D.