One month ago, a tsunami swept through the world distorting the political and business shape of many countries. The world went agog with the release of the names of tax evaders who hid tax from their countries in offshore properties in what is the largest data leak in history.
Panama-Papers leak quaked the world as over 11 million legal and financial records of the world’s most influential people, which amounted to a whooping 2.6 terabytes of data, were stolen from the servers of a Panama-based law firm called Mossack Fonseca.
These documents were released to the media by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Social media was not left aside as it went awash with people from all works of life and from different nations vented their anger at how the world’s rich and powerful evaded tax only for the poor and lowly to bear the grunt of taxation.
The PanamaPapers’ 110 Nigerian tax evaders Vs President Buhari’s May 29th list of corrupt Nigerians PanamaPapers leaks indicted the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, President Mauricio Macri of Argentina, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko,
FIFA officials and Barcelona and Argentina’s football star Messi to mention but a few. It took less than 48 hours for mass protests to begin in countries that have zero tolerance for tax evation. Over 10,000 Icelanders protested in the capital of the Island nation Reykjavik after the documents were released. The country’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíd Gunnlaugsson, would later throw in the towel over indictments about his offshore assets stashed in a tax
haven found in the document leak. Jose Manuel Soria, Spain’s industry minister would also step aside over allegations he had links to offshore companies as well as many others who have gone down as a result of revelations
of their involvement in the global tax hiest. It didnt come as a suprise to Nigerians that Nigerian politicians, business tycoons, Dons of the oil and gas industry, royal fathers as well as religious leaders made the Panama papers list.
The list include the likes of the immediate past senate president- Senator David Mark, the embattled president of the red chamber-senator Bukola Saraki and his wife, Aliko Dangote and his mother, Niger State governor -Lolo Bello, the late former Oni of Ife, the younger brother APC chieftain- Bola Tinubu, Lagos based prophet T.B Joshua who made it to the list with his wife and a host of many others.
Unlike people who made the list from other countries especially in Europe whose monies may have come from legitimate sources but are trying to avoid taxation, most Nigerians on the list made their ill gotten wealth through fraudulent means and they went on to hide these stolen monies to avoid payment. One will expect Nigerians to call for the heads of these people who have stashed our national wealth in countries like British Virgins Islands, Bahamas and Seychelles but this was not to be. Nigerians maintained their cool and nobody cared about the hidden monies. It was more shocking that EFCC which in recent times have stepped up their manhunt for corrupt officials did absolutely nothing to this regard.
Furthermore more, president Buhari who rode to power on his anti corruption war turned a blind eye to the Panama-Papers list and instead placed more attention on his golden May 29th list of corrupt Nigerians.
This has led to questions like. Is President Buharri’s May 29th list, which many predicted will be filled with names of his political enemies, more important than the years and years of efforts put in by ICIJ to leak the Panama papers?
Is tax evasion now a legal practice in Nigeria? Are those indicted in the data leaks too big to go after?. Is the EFCC confirming the doubts of people who think they are tool used to bully the political enemies of every sitting government?
Will President Buhari’s May 29th list be a merger of the names mentioned in the Panama data leaks and those his investigations have found to be corrupt? Which ever answer, one profers to these questions, one thing is certain tax evasion is a
financial crime and it is punishable under the laws of Nigeria.
President Buhari should be prepared to step on toes if his anti graft war is to be taken seriously by international anti corruption watchdogs.
The names mentioned in the global data leaks are as important as those who will be mentioned in president Buhari’s list, and people from both list should be treated equally.