Maritime Bulletin
Is The Panama Papers leak, or attack on our rights?
History of Journalism has Halls of Shame and of Fame. ICIJ definitely, is a candidate for a Hall of Shame.

World media are buzzing with the Panama Papers leak, industry media being no exception. Prevailing mood can be described as well, at last, we nab them dirty bastards. Everybody seems to be happy and tremendously satisfied.

I turned to Splash24 and its series of articles dedicated to a new blockbuster, The Panama Papers, in hope to find out, what shipping makes of it, of those papers and the whole mess. Well, cant say that I found an answer, that I found anything at all except moralizing. Transparency is the buzzword of the good guys, offshore is the buzzword when speaking of evil.
Shipping is a bad guy, generally. Shipping is dodging taxes, cheating seafarers, using FOCs and making itself as oblique as possible, avoiding social responsibilities, but with that, demanding help when in distress. Like it was with Somalia piracy, remember? Navies of half of the world hurried to assist, notwithstanding the fact, that shipowners dont pay for it, for Navy I mean, by avoiding taxes.
Well, as far as I know (and it is quite far, if talking about piracy), shipping secured itself from pirates by own means and on its own account, turning to private guards, instead of laying hopes with Navies, UN and maritime organizations. There was a very strong resistance to armed guards, there still is, and no Navies can make shipping safe in Gulf of Guinea, where armed (well, any, unarmed too) are persecuted with much more diligence and ferocity, than pirates. But in case of Somalia pirates, armed guards saved the day, didnt they? Who paid for them, our poor governments? Who paid war insurances, I wonder? Who paid war risk premiums to crews? Dont say to me, please, about bad shipowners and suffering from their murky ways society.

But of course, its not the point. The point is, the leak is an undisguised attack on offshore as a system in general, which system governments find so abusive of governments right to tax the population in a way governments find most suitable, i.e. to pin down each and all of the citizen, leaving them no way out, and making them transparent.
Just one example, what offshore means for many entrepreneurs in many countries. In Russia private entrepreneur in shipping without offshore is as good as dead. His property can be taken from him any time the State, or somebody in high places, finds appropriate, and there is nothing he can do about it, there is no institution he can turn to, to find plain justice. No way. His property, when legally registered in Russia, is actually, a constant source of personal risk, because he may be found guilty on hoax accusation, and get a sentence, which usually, goes along with confiscation of his business and everything he has, its a wide-spread practice in Russia.

Or take me. I dont have money even to think about offshore, but if I find some funds to establish fully-fledged edition, Ill of course, register it in offshore. Ill be an utter fool to register it in Russia, with my nasty habit of speaking out what I think, feel and find right, not whats politically correct, or safe, or profitable. In a very short time Id finish my undertaking, be it registered in Russia, by being accused and imprisoned, or by getting into morgue, or intensive care ward, if somebody would care enough to call an ambulance. Not to mention a bureaucratic nightmare of registering procedures, and extortionate costs of those procedures.
Take freelancers, anyone with any business which doesnt request offices, which can be carried on from any place, any time. Take anyone active and independent enough to do something on his own, without relying on State welfare or governmental employment.
But even if I agree to be absolutely legal in governmental understanding of it, theres the question of tax spendings, of the ways my country utilizes it. If talking about my home country Russia, Id better burn my hard earned money, than give any of it to Russian government. I dont want to pay for Mr. Putins extravagant luxuries, or his friends, or to feed Russian military and terrorist aggression all around the globe, thank you. If burned, my money at least wont add to the evil.
Russia isnt alone, there are many other countries, whose governments demand transparency from ordinary citizen, but dont feel themselves obliged to be as transparent in return. They feel themselves offended or threatened, if or when we, ordinary citizen, demand from them accountability.

Offshore actually, is a public instrument to keep a tight rein on governments and politicians. When the number of active citizen leaving their countrys economy physically or via offshore, or internet, or any other holes left, is becoming dangerously big, government has to react by changing the laws and making them more so to say, habitable for individuals.
Thats why governments, politicians and leftists hate offshore, and FOCs of course, so much. Thats why theyre trying to eliminate any practice, which provides individuals with opportunity to stay independent, and behave independent, but whore better citizen than free, independent people, may I ask?

I decided, out of curiosity, to investigate a little bit the investigators themselves, those glorious knights, or namely, The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ.
What I found out, didnt make me their supporter or admirer. The mainstream of their investigations is offshore, devilish network of dirty rich, whore robbing our planet. Frankly, I didnt get the meaning of it all, its a jungle of names and a mess of so-called reports or investigations, under blaring headlines. I didnt find anything you know, matter-of-fact, in readable, short, unequivocal manner. Its like entering river and trying to catch fish with bare hands in muddy waters. I checked their database ICIJ Leaks Database, Russian list. Whats all about? A name of a person, address, and a link to offshore company. Now what? Is this person a bloody criminal, laundering bloody money? If yes, where are proofs and accusations? If no, why ICIJ, legally more dubious, than any of your offshore companies, makes the name and address of an individual public? And by the way, how did ICIJ get the details of this person? Was the acquisition as legal as the acquisition of an offshore company?
The main sources of their investigations are anonymous leaks, or simply put, mass of data, obtained by mysterious ways, no less mysterious, than the devilish offshore network. All the investigations have an underlined common thread of offshore system as the main culprit. They knights I mean dont bother themselves with explaining offshore principles.

In basic terms, these (offshore) firms help people create new businesses and trusts. unlike banks, these law firms dont take possession of their clients money. So the notion that they are involved in money laundering is laughable. Once incorporation papers are filed, the law firms dont direct in any way the operation of the businesses.

ICIJ plays on public instincts and general hatred of dirty rich. Are dirty rich bad? Of course they are. Are their ways bad? Surely, no doubt about it. But their ways are ways of offshore, so bingo offshore is bad.
Nobody is more glad to ICIJ fearless investigations, than governments. Because governments want us all to be transparent, for our own sake, of course. Were under growing risk of becoming transparent to a degree of non-existence as humans, as individuals. An individual, a human being, cant exist under total control, it makes human being just another brick in the wall or part of the machine.
I have my doubts about those anonymous leaks, I think everybody skeptical does. Too convenient for governments and politicians, to be persistently repetitive anonymous leaks.
ICIJ tried to launch anti-offshore campaign in 2013, after they received especially big leak. It didnt work out back then, because of some uncomfortable, even dangerous for ICIJ knights, questions. This time, they prepared better, and all the major are either keeping neutral, or openly supportive.
The main question still remains unanswered, and no doubt, will remain unanswered. All those terabytes of offshore data were stolen. There are thousands or tens of thousands names in there, with strictly private information. How legal is it (forget about morals, were dealing with glorious knights, remember?), that a bunch of self-proclaimed evil fighters has at its disposal private information on thousands of individuals? Whos to guarantee, that they (knights) wont abuse it? Use it for their own purposes? Actually, thats what they already did used it for their own purposes, which are a far cry from unselfish stand for truth and righteousness. They created a world-wide scandal without anything factual, without nabbing any actual criminal. And they fuelled anti-offshore campaign, and that, I believe, was the true task theyve been given.
Be ICIJ bunch real truth-seekers, theyd at least explain, that there is nothing illegal in offshore, that offshore is an instrument, like say, knife. Knife may be used for cutting cake, or for murder, and no one yet demanded ban on knifes as being too dangerous for us, stupid common folks, to use.
History of Journalism has Halls of Shame and of Fame. ICIJ definitely, is a candidate for a Hall of Shame. ICIJ journalists are mercenaries without social responsibility, not burdened with unnecessary scruples. Theyre working in favour of governments and some international organizations, like World Health Organization, the mainstream of their activities leads to strengthening States control over individuals, and restricting of personal freedom. They violate the laws and get away with it, what other proofs one needs to understand the game theyre in?

The ICIJ website has a special contact form for snitching, reporting leaks, especially anonymous. Well, last week I sent them two of my investigations, on Somalia piracy falsifications, and on ITF and affiliated trade unions activities  and The sums of money involved arent all that disdainfully small, the names of organizations are rather well-known. Theres no anonymity here, Im the author of those investigations, ready to stand up, even in court. Surprise, surprise I didnt get any reply yet, even receipt acknowledgment.

Voytenko Mikhail
April 11, 2016