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Panama Papers Reveal the Rotten Heart of the British Financial System

06/04/2016 10:17 | Updated 06 April 2016

Presidents, prime ministers and kings, Chinese politburo members, senior African bureaucrats - there's clearly enough material in the Panama Papers to fill the "foreign" news pages for months.

And that's already been the major focus of much of the media coverage.

Yet this shouldn't be the main focus of coverage in Britain.

For this is fundamentally, at its heart, an exposing by a brave whistleblower of the rotten heart of the British financial system, of British society.

For more than half of the companies in the papers are registered in British dependencies or in the UK itself.

Half of the financial institutions involved in setting them up are based on British territory - and some of them are familiar household names.

Many members of the network of tax havens that has allowed corruption, crime and tax evasion to flourish are under British control - they are our responsibility.

The money robbed from hopelessly overstrained healthcare systems in the global South that's been paid by multinational companies into the secret accounts of corrupt officials, the communities living in fear of organised crime that launders its money through these havens, the 1% of richest who are living high on the hog of private jets and multiple luxury homes when that money could be invested in productive, job-creating industries - all of these are our responsibility here in Britain.

Many of our 17 overseas territories and crown dependencies are at the heart of this corrupt, destructive network, and have been encouraged to be so by successive British governments that have otherwise feared their costs to the UK government.

This has to stop. We should be immediately forcing full transparency - insisting that every territory demand the identification and publication of the beneficial ownership of all companies on their registers.

They must stop being tax havens.

That would no doubt give the world's media another whole flood of information about corruption, crime and tax evasion.

But publicity and embarrassment isn't enough. The officials in tax havens should be forced to cooperate fully with every effort to return ill-gotten gains to their rightful owners.

One local angle to the Panama Papers story that has got attention is the fact that family of our Prime Minister is closely linked by the Panama Papers to the tax-dodging that's one of the great scandals.

Now that in itself shouldn't be held against the Prime Minister - no political figure can or should be held responsible for the behaviour of their relatives.

But the family link is a reminder that far too few of the people now governing us have experienced life as most Britons live it.

And of course there are many more Tory party links in the Panama Papers - including multiple major party donors. They've donated many millions of pounds to Tory Party coffers.

Our current system means we all get the politics that these users of tax havens pay for.

It's now up to David Cameron to break with that unholy alliance - to announce an end to the secrecy regimes in all British-controlled territory, to use the summit he is hosting next month to demand matching action from other nations, and to say that the Tory Party will no longer accept money from donors who use tax havens in their business or personal affairs.

Then he can truly claim to end Britain's role as a key facilitator, indeed accomplice, in tax evasion, corruption and crime around the world.

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