Wikileaks to expose tax evaders

  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

There is much debate over the diplomatic cables that were released, but I wonder if this is a different case? Wikileaks vows to expose tax evaders that hide money in swiss banks. Is this right? Perhaps access to the information is illegal, but it's no different than reporting a crime? If it is illegal, is it morally right?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/17/julian-assange-tax-wikileaks-swiss
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Al68
Wikileaks vows to expose tax evaders that hide money in swiss banks. Is this right? Perhaps access to the information is illegal, but it's no different than reporting a crime? If it is illegal, is it morally right?
I'd say not, based on that article. Publishing private information for political purposes isn't "reporting a crime." The IRS already has the info.

And The Guardian said "...This allows them lawfully to avoid paying tax on profits...", so it seems they're not even referring to evasion in the legal sense. They seem to be referring to the same type of trusts the http://www.livingtrustnetwork.com/estate-planning-center/last-will-and-testament/wills-of-the-rich-and-famous/last-will-and-testament-of-edward-m-kennedy.html" [Broken] have used to avoid taxes for decades.

I'd say that bank just lost its trust with its patrons by violating their privacy. Firing the leaker alone won't regain it.
 
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  • #3
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1
There is much debate over the diplomatic cables that were released, but I wonder if this is a different case? Wikileaks vows to expose tax evaders that hide money in swiss banks. Is this right? Perhaps access to the information is illegal, but it's no different than reporting a crime? If it is illegal, is it morally right?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/17/julian-assange-tax-wikileaks-swiss
this is very interesting. i don't know what to think yet, but i'm skeptical much will come of it. we had our own little banking scandal just a couple of years ago, and i don't remember much coming of it either. Phil Gramm had been lobbying for UBS, who had set up some fairly elaborate ways for americans to hide their money overseas. where, of course, they could invest it to earn income that the IRS is unable to see.
 
  • #4
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To me this is not much different, except for some few details. As most of the (wiki)leaks, those are not genuine "news", they merely draw large attention towards a known issue. And as usual, some will say this is just necessary dirty laundry, in agreement with established laws, and the only necessary change is to silence dissident voices.

One detail I personally find interesting and potentially different is there :
In 2008, he released to the site a much smaller collection of documents, also detailing the tax details of some of the bank's clients. Though the site has never published that information, Julius Baer succeeded briefly in shutting down Wikileaks.org before the site, supported by a number of US media and civil liberties organisations, succeeded in overturning the injunction. He also passed the information to the US tax authorities.
And The Guardian said "...This allows them lawfully to avoid paying tax on profits...", so it seems they're not even referring to evasion in the legal sense.
If you read carefully, including references, you find
Some of the paperwork concerns legal tax avoidance structures. Other files are alleged to point to potential illegal tax evasion by individuals around the globe.
So as expected, it's not up to the newspaper to decide, and they properly say so.
 
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  • #5
OmCheeto
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There is much debate over the diplomatic cables that were released, but I wonder if this is a different case? Wikileaks vows to expose tax evaders that hide money in swiss banks. Is this right? Perhaps access to the information is illegal, but it's no different than reporting a crime? If it is illegal, is it morally right?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/17/julian-assange-tax-wikileaks-swiss
Well, he's apparently broken Swiss law:
Elmer will appear in a Swiss court on Wednesday charged with breaking Swiss banking secrecy laws
but I'd say he's on moral high ground.

And I don't know if the information on the disks is useful in criminal cases:

http://www.startribune.com/business/113986904.html?elr=KArks:DCiU1OiP:DiiUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUoD3aPc:_2yc:a_ncyD_MDCiU", who ran the Caribbean operations of the Swiss bank Julius Baer for eight years until he was dismissed in 2002, refused to identify any of the individuals or companies, but he told reporters at a news conference that about 40 politicians and "pillars of society" were among them.
Which means the data, if Mr. Elmer was the one that absconded with it, is at least 8 years old.

Well, at least the American crooks won't go to jail:

http://www.justice.gov/tax/readingroom/2001ctm/07ctax.htm"
7.01[2] Limitations Periods for Common Tax Offenses
Statute of Limitations : Tax Evasion = 6 years
What's really odd, is that this is the 2nd time Mr. Elmer has done this. Maybe wikileaks wasn't famous enough in 2008, and they wanted to have a second go? According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_Julius_Baer_vs._Wikileaks_lawsuit" [Broken], the leaks started all the way back in 1997! Which is why they fired him in 2002. So he's probably really pissed and this is why he's done it twice.

This is getting too weird. Just forget anything I've said that might look like an opinion.
 
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  • #6
There is much debate over the diplomatic cables that were released, but I wonder if this is a different case? Wikileaks vows to expose tax evaders that hide money in swiss banks. Is this right? Perhaps access to the information is illegal, but it's no different than reporting a crime? If it is illegal, is it morally right?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/17/julian-assange-tax-wikileaks-swiss
I find now that the question is posed so, that I have no moral issues with private banking information of a very few public figures public. Frankly, it's the kind of grey-hat issue some hackers get into on their way to being... well... non-criminal. Given that Switzerland is a country that in modern times is essentially built on money laundering and other services related to their highly private banking system... what's the IRS going to do? There are still families trying to get seized Nazi goods back from Swiss banks, so what one country engaged in a multinational trade considers "legal" or "moral" hardly seems to be a dimension here.

The REAL issue is that Switzerland has other banking competitors, and this may undermine what they survive on: "neutrality"... read: we'll take ANYONE'S money and hide it. As for legal... I'm not aware of financial crimes in Switzerland that aren't beneficial to bankers in Switzerland (obvious hyperbole to make a point).

Anyway, as a moral relativist, this is a purely practical question for me with no moral dimension at all: The Swiss government is famous for protecting their banks, the banks are famous for being trustworthy... to their investors and the hell with anyone else. Well... welcome to a brave new world; good luck hiding unless you already have a head start on those skills. So... what do I think? Wikipedia is only as good as the information they're releasing that day. Wikipedia is only as bad as the information they're releasing that day. Wikipedia would have some actual good will if they hadn't confused exposing additional details (but not new data) about international diplomacy, with exposing actual SECRETS, scams, and just-plain shady practices and hypocrisy. The Swiss banking system is hypocrisy, second only to the Vatican's financial situation, they have a history of justifying criminal activity under the banking laws they make.

So... this is a no brainer: publish if there is something of value, but if this is just "the drudge report" with a new twist, then no. I'd be interested in wrongdoing or shady practices on a serious scale; not simply shaming a relatively small number of people, and their bankers.
 
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  • #7
OmCheeto
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And check out the last paragraph from Humanino's link:

Lawyers and accountants make up a tenth of the 52,000 population of the Cayman Islands, which are English-speaking, politically stable, in the US time zone, and with zero taxes. This British Overseas Territory with palm trees and luxury hotels, measuring less than 100 square miles, is the fifth largest financial centre on the planet. Tax Justice Network campaigners estimate that tax havens collectively hold more than $11.5 trillion. Some comes from tax avoidance. Each year the US may lose a total of about $100bn in potential taxes, France about $50bn, Germany $30bn, the UK between $20bn and $80bn - and the developing world loses up to $800bn in stolen capital. But in the Caymans, a prison sentence awaits anyone who discloses bank information.
Geez Louise...... $11.5 trillion!

How many countries would that make solvent?

hmmmm

A third of the debt of the planet is held in cash on one little island? Screw Iraq. Let go invade the Caymans. :devil:
 
  • #8
And check out the last paragraph from Humanino's link:



Geez Louise...... $11.5 trillion!

How many countries would that make solvent?

hmmmm



A third of the debt of the planet is held in cash on one little island? Screw Iraq. Let go invade the Caymans. :devil:
Heh... sad, but the first thing I thought was: "You can't transfer oil with a keystroke; invade the Caymens and the money would be gone before our military even landed." That is some kind of weird reaction... I need more sleep!

Great post btw Cheeto
 
  • #9
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1
There is much debate over the diplomatic cables that were released, but I wonder if this is a different case? Wikileaks vows to expose tax evaders that hide money in swiss banks. Is this right? Perhaps access to the information is illegal, but it's no different than reporting a crime? If it is illegal, is it morally right?
I don't know if it's legal or not. I find it, however, reprehensible to grab mass quantities of info and splatter it all over the internet, particularly when much of that information is personal.
 
  • #10
OmCheeto
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Heh... sad, but the first thing I thought was: "You can't transfer oil with a keystroke; invade the Caymens and the money would be gone before our military even landed." That is some kind of weird reaction... I need more sleep!
I was kidding of course.

But I just read a very nice http://news.prnewswire.com/DisplayReleaseContent.aspx?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/05-05-2009/0005019996&EDATE=" from the Chairman of the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association to president Obama. Apparently Barack said some nasty things about them.

Anyways, they said they were on the up and up, and had nothing to hide. But we'll see what the new wikileaks stuff turns up.

This is getting to be kind of fun. Like a global glasnost fest.

:smile:
 
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  • #11
I don't know if it's legal or not. I find it, however, reprehensible to grab mass quantities of info and splatter it all over the internet, particularly when much of that information is personal.
It's reprehensible, unless they're crooks. I guess I understand the concern of even a malcontent ex-employee, but Wikileaks, given how they handled their LAST big "Thing"... showed a real disregard for what is leaking criminal activity vs. lightly soiled laundry kinda not really. :rolleyes:

I'd be more confident that this is explosive information if Wikileaks were NOT the outlet, but I do appreciate that this guy didn't just start uploading it. I think you need to remember, all he had to do was seed this as a file on ONE torrent site, and it would be all over the world. There is clearly some attempt being made on behalf of Elmer to protect privacy, but he shows terrible judgment in using Wikileaks as his vetting crew.


I see this as VERY distinct from the diplomatic leaks: we learned absolutely nothing new, it was just old information put in the tersest terms possible. The only thing that accomplished that we can be sure of, is to throw sand in the *** of international diplomacy. I don't see the plus there, and I don't see the plus in not redacting sources and methods to protect lives.
 
  • #12
PhilKravitz
The truth will set us free.

I would favor making all information on ownership public record.
 
  • #13
The truth will set us free.

I would favor making all information on ownership public record.
In which country? That's kind of the issue....
 
  • #14
PhilKravitz
In which country? That's kind of the issue....
I favor it in all countries. But of course there is no country that has open information.
 
  • #15
Evo
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I would favor making all information on ownership public record.
Ownership of what?
 
  • #16
I favor it in all countries. But of course there is no country that has open information.
That obviously would compromise the security of every country, and none would be willing to do what you describe. Given how far-fetched that is, what is it you think the world gains from everyone knowing what everyone else owns? I mean, have you seen the coverage of the Golden Globes, anything Trump, Rupert Murdoch buying anything... where's the subtle wealth that's being missed?

I'd add, what you own says a lot about you. Should everyone know that you have a given medical condition because you own a medical device? You'd also naturally make some people targets, no matter what income level a community is; hell, I could see an "app" using GPS and that data to assign a "robbery value" to given homes.

Is there some kind of philosophy behind this, or do you just dislike secrets? You talk about free information, as though secrets weren't a part of friendships and families too, and a human nature.
 
  • #17
PhilKravitz
Ownership of what?
Everything. Stocks. Bonds, land, houses, real estate, intellectual property, privately held companies, gold, silver, anything of worth more than $10,000 , art work, horses, cattle, mineral rights, dollars, yen, yuan, euros, etc....

Some of this is already a matter of public record for land and houses. But of course it may be obscured behind many layers of intermediate corporations. Only the top five holders of publicly traded corporation in the US are required to be listed by the SEC.

This is just a statement of my preference. Secrecy is not adding value to my life.
 
  • #18
Evo
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Everything. Stocks. Bonds, land, houses, real estate, intellectual property, privately held companies, gold, silver, anything of worth more than $10,000 , art work, horses, cattle, mineral rights, dollars, yen, yuan, euros, etc....
That doesn't even make sense, sorry. My guess is that you're very young. :biggrin:
 
  • #19
lisab
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Everything. Stocks. Bonds, land, houses, real estate, intellectual property, privately held companies, gold, silver, anything of worth more than $10,000 , art work, horses, cattle, mineral rights, dollars, yen, yuan, euros, etc....

Some of this is already a matter of public record for land and houses. But of course it may be obscured behind many layers of intermediate corporations. Only the top five holders of publicly traded corporation in the US are required to be listed by the SEC.

This is just a statement of my preference. Secrecy is not adding value to my life.
If you had this knowledge, how would value be added to your life?
 
  • #20
PhilKravitz
That doesn't even make sense, sorry. My guess is that you're very young. :biggrin:
I am 52 years old. My wife is 56. My dad is 80. My grand mother is 102. How old are you?

People who live in fear what to keep secrets. For example if they got their money by running alcohol during prohibition they might fear revealing the truth. Or if they made their money selling illegal drugs. If they are law abiding what do they have to fear from the truth.
 
  • #21
Al68
Everything. Stocks. Bonds, land, houses, real estate, intellectual property, privately held companies, gold, silver, anything of worth more than $10,000 , art work, horses, cattle, mineral rights, dollars, yen, yuan, euros, etc....

Some of this is already a matter of public record for land and houses. But of course it may be obscured behind many layers of intermediate corporations. Only the top five holders of publicly traded corporation in the US are required to be listed by the SEC.

This is just a statement of my preference. Secrecy is not adding value to my life.
So it's just your "preference" to violate the privacy of others, huh? That would add value to your life?

Request denied. Neither you nor government will ever know how much gold and silver, for example, I own. The only logical way to know for sure everything that somebody owns is when they're dead.
 
  • #22
Al68
If they are law abiding what do they have to fear from the truth.
Their loss of privacy, obviously. :uhh:

Surely you are aware that people value their privacy for reasons other than legal incrimination.
 
  • #23
Evo
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I am 52 years old. My wife is 56. My dad is 80. My grand mother is 102. How old are you?
That's too funny, I thought you were 16. Apparently I was wrong.

People who live in fear what to keep secrets. For example if they got their money by running alcohol during prohibition they might fear revealing the truth. Or if they made their money selling illegal drugs. If they are law abiding what do they have to fear from the truth.
People have a right to privacy. If I want to invest in art, it's none of your business. Why would you need to know?
 
  • #24
lisab
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I am 52 years old. My wife is 56. My dad is 80. My grand mother is 102. How old are you?

People who live in fear what to keep secrets. For example if they got their money by running alcohol during prohibition they might fear revealing the truth. Or if they made their money selling illegal drugs. If they are law abiding what do they have to fear from the truth.
I've never made a dollar illegally in my life, but I don't want to tell anyone how much money I make or how much I have. It's my business, period.
 
  • #25
Al68
I've never made a dollar illegally in my life, but I don't want to tell anyone how much money I make or how much I have. It's my business, period.
Cool, another "right-wing radical extremist" like me. :smile:
 

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