Last year saw one of history’s biggest data leaks when over 11 million documents from offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca landed in the hands of the world’s press. The documents revealed information on more than 210,000 companies, trusts, foundations and world leaders, many of whom were using the Panama-based firm to help them hide their money - and their secrets - offshore, avoiding millions of dollars in tax.
The story was huge news for a while and then sort of went away. A few people - like the (now former) Icelandic prime minister - saw their reputations ruined, but most survived the scandal careers intact. Tax Havens of the Rich and Famous is an attempt to right that wrong, to expose the bad guys - the names we know and those we don’t - and bring them to justice.
Here’s why you should watch...
1. It will make you angry
In the UK alone, it’s estimated offshore tax havens account for losses of up to 7.2 billion pounds a year. That’s not exactly pocket money. While the working class and small- to medium-sized businesses are paying the full tax rate, the wealthy and those running global corporations continue to get away with paying miniscule amounts of tax.
While we’ve always known it’s been going on, this program is a timely reminder as governments threaten spending cuts on programs that primarily affect the least fortunate members of society due to all the revenue being lost thanks to rich people rorting the system. Or, as Donald Trump puts it “being smart”.
2. It’s good to know who you’re mad at
In today’s world, we have a general feeling that all politicians are crooks, all big business is dodgy and all wealthy people want to stick it to the little guy. This probably isn’t true - Warren Buffett seems lovely - but what the Mossack Fonseca leak did was name names, separating the truly dodgy from the mere buffoons.
So while it’s not exactly a surprise the leak showed a $2 billion money trail leading straight to Vladimir Putin, it’s nice to know we’re right to be legitimately pissed at him. Not to mention the 72 other former or current heads of state accused of looting their countries for their own financial gain.
Meanwhile, there are people like Jose Mujica, the former president of Uruguay, who gave most of his money earned while in office to the poor and refused to trade in his beloved 1987 baby blue Beetle for something more presidential. Or even something with electric windows. So, y’know, they’re not all bad.
3. You will feel smarter
I don’t know about you, but I would feel more comfortable in a bikini onstage at a Miss Universe pageant alongside President Trump than I do sitting in my accountant’s office. And I don’t do swimwear.
Money laundering and other matters of high finance are completely foreign concepts to me, and I admit I feel ignorant for not trying to understand them better. When the Mossack Fonseca leak happened, I definitely heard about it, but did I know what it all meant and the wider connotations such a leak held? Not really. Now, thanks to this show, it makes sense. I feel significantly more intelligent than I did half an hour ago.
4. Real estate porn
Look, I know it’s not necessarily a good thing to be embezzling money and sending it into offshore accounts so you can go tax free on fancy estates in the Kent countryside and swanky mansions in upper class London boroughs… but I like a bit of real estate porn, alright?
I don’t like that people are getting away with paying zero taxes on swanky properties like the one below. I do like imagining the colour scheme I’d use in the living room on said property.
5. More evidence Putin is a really, seriously, suspicious dude
The apparent poisoning of rivals and (alleged) US presidential rigging aside, Putin ain’t that bad, right? Yeah, nah, the guy truly is the worst. Perhaps the biggest revelation in the show is of ol' Vlad using a cellist mate - his daughter’s godfather at that - as the front man to swindle literally billions of dollars of Russian money out of the country and into his own private funds.
Perhaps one day we'll wake up to Putin and his bare-chested madness and actually do something about it.
Watch Tax Havens of the Rich and Famous right here: