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Each day, FT readers post thousands of comments responding to our stories: opinions, critiques, personal experiences and even the occasional joke. You talk, we listen. Here are this week’s highlights from our coverage of the Panama Papers.
“You don’t need to be a socialist, a Corbynite or part of the Brexit brigade to think this situation is untenable! My peers earn £100k and pay a third in income tax. We may also have a flat which is rented and pay tax on that income. We have, by 32, paid vastly more in tax than the public services we’ve consumed.
We cannot afford, however, to access offshore services like those cited (not that I want to — they’re immoral in my view). The government needs to realise that whilst this may be legal (strictly speaking), it is undemocratic and clearly only an option for VERY rich people. All the while, the burden of closing the deficit falls on the aspirational middle earners principally!”
“What all readers forget: The ‘Panama Papers’ were available because Panamanian actors have to keep at least some documentation on their clients and beneficial owners of companies and trusts. Such obligations are largely absent in Delaware, Nevada and other US States and the home of hypocrisy and double standards will continue to do nothing about it. The opaque US based organisation of journalists at the origin of the Panama Papers knows what is expected from them.”
On links to China
“To put things in perspective: the father of one of my associates — who is Chinese — has just finished serving six years in a Chinese prison. He was a school headmaster. He had been accused — unjustly he claims — of stealing the equivalent of $2,000 USD. He was caught in one of the many anti-corruption purges run by the government.
Then I read of various in-laws, wives, brothers acting as straw men to hide wealth, avoid taxes, and god knows what profits of illicit activities. I have the impression we haven’t moved much from the Middle Age and the feudal system.”
On David Cameron’s involvement
“The problem is not a failure to ask the questions. It is evasiveness, economy with the truth, shiftiness — call it what you will — on the part of the PM. I don’t mind that he benefited from an offshore trust. He didn’t get to choose his father. I do deeply dislike his failure to be open about it.”
“If I was a multi-millionaire because my family became rich out of setting up complex tax avoidance schemes (in Panama of all places!!), I would have the decency not to fight hard for a job where I would be telling other people off for not paying their taxes.
I would certainly not, like our current Chancellor (who you notice is being *very very* quiet) have the gall and hypocrisy to try and take money from the pockets of disabled people while watching my trust fund sell a £6m property to an anonymous offshore entity who raison-d’etre is to avoid/evade tax.
I cannot believe they are still in their jobs, and I find it even more unbelievable we let them. It might seem unfair, but the bar for high public office is set very high for a good reason. Maybe we really do get what we deserve when we vote for these people?”
On reforming British privacy laws
“In Scandinavia, all tax records are public. And guess what? The Nordic countries are almost always ranked the least corrupt on the planet. Transparency is the best tool to fight this stuff. It is only the English sensibility about privacy that really keeps this from being implemented.”
“Anybody who has studied Law (as I have) would realise the stupendously and sometimes illogically complex nature of English common law on Trusts - in comparison to the law in most European jurisdictions - makes drafting transparency laws a very difficult job. The first thing to do would be to campaign to completely revise hundreds of years of common law development in this area - but unfortunately that makes for dull headlines and explaining it wouldn’t fit in a 140 character tweet.”
On dirty money in London’s property market
Both of these comments are in response to the piece How laundered money shapes London’s property market, by Judith Evans.
“It should be easy to stop this flow. If we find someone who has been found guilty of corruption or embezzlement, confiscate the property and auction it off. Return the proceeds to the victims of the criminal. A couple of successful cases like this and this dirty money will go elsewhere. But here I am, dreaming again. The vested interests in keeping this grotesque circus alive are way too strong.”
By Oscar Leinreiter. This was the most recommended comment by readers, with 56 recommends.
“90% of London properties should be restricted to be only purchased by permanent UK residents, like in Switzerland. The problem is not so much the criminals of this world, it is that the whole wold is using London real estate as a piggy bank, making property price unaffordable, and therefore pushing up rents.”