When the Panama and Paradise papers were leaked I thought things might change. Perhaps the status quo might be challenged but instead, nothing in the UK fundamentally changed. Emma Watson is still acting, Simon Cowell is still a producer, and the Queen is still the monarch.
In a time where funding the NHS is at the forefront of voters minds, the rich and powerful hide their wealth offshore avoiding vital tax that funds our health service.
But instead of a massive upheaval across the globe, the papers were met with little resistance. The momentum died out. The world shrugged its shoulders “of course the rich would do that.” The masses threw in their towels in defeatism, and it is that complacency that allows corruption like this to persist in society.
According to the ICIJ, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a taskforce told the UK parliament that it had investigated dozens of people for tax evasion as well as recovering £203 million in back taxes and fines, which might seem an astounding number but when compared to the overall tax revenue of £687bn it is dwarfed. The real problem we face unearthed by the papers is the inability of those in power to regulate corruption and tax avoidance when it benefits so many of them.
The rich got nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the press, but in the grand scheme of things not much at all.
When Garry Barlow was ordered to repay £20 million in 2016 they didn’t even take his OBE away from him.
The Panama and Paradise papers exposed politicians, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals. Showing that the UK is a place where wealthy people can abuse their power for their own monetary wants. The UK ranks among the top 15 of corporate tax avoidance enablers, a shocking statistic for a country full of people so keen to point out the corruption in other areas of the world.
As I watched the world give up, the tax avoidance, offshore bank accounts and corruption persisted. These leaks reiterate the poet Percy Shelley “the rich have become richer, and the poor have become poorer.”