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Here’s why so few Americans appear in the Panama Papers

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From Russia to China, and Britain to Iceland, the revelations of the “Panama Papers” have tarnished officials and the wealthy over the implication that they hide riches offshore.

But one group is not there: prominent Americans. US tycoons and politicians are notably absent in the leaked files of the Panama law offices of Mossack Fonseca, which created thousands of shell companies worldwide to hide the identities of their ultimate owners, some of whom may have been evading taxes.

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There is Hollywood mogul David Geffen, the Asylum Records and Dreamworks SKG co-founder. But there are no Americans comparable to Iceland’s prime minister, or henchmen of the Russian president — all in the Panama records — at least in what has been disclosed so far.

“There are a lot of Americans, but they are more like private citizens,” said Marina Walker Guevara, deputy director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which coordinated the investigation and release of the Panama Papers.

However, that hardly means Americans have fully embraced financial transparency, she told AFP.

“It (Other OTC: ITGL – news) doesn’t show that the US is outside of the offshore system; the US is actually a big player.”

– Other options –

One possible reason for their small presence in the Panama documents is that US citizens hoping to hide funds and activities offshore were not drawn to Spanish-speaking Panama as a haven, when there are options like the British Virgin islands and the Cayman Islands.

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“Americans have so many tax havens to choose from,” said Nicholas Shaxson, author of “Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World,” a 2011 book on secretive centers for hiding money.

Indeed, Americans do not have to go abroad to hide funds and activities behind anonymous corporations: they can create them at home.

States like Delaware and Wyoming allow the creation of such companies, for just a few hundred dollars, that conceal their ultimate financial beneficiary.

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And while US banks are normally required to “know their customers,” they can bypass that rule and open accounts for shell companies, ensuring total discretion for someone who wants to move money around quietly.

The US Treasury is moving to stop the practice, which can be used by arms and drug traffickers to launder funds and lands the United States in third in the Tax Justice Network’s ranking of the world’s least transparent countries, well above Panama.

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“We’re in the last stages of drafting the final rule,” a Treasury official told AFP.

– ‘Very frightened’ –

But there is another possible reason that Americans are not so visible in the Panama Papers.

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Spurred by the need to halt huge, blatant tax evasion by Americans using foreign banks, Washington in recent years has cracked down with lawsuits, arrests and tighter laws that have targeted both the banks offering safe haven and those hiding money in them.

Swiss banks were hit in particular. UBS (LSE: 0QNR.L – news) and Credit Suisse (LSE: 0QP5.L – news) , respectively, had to pay fines of $780 million and $2.6 billion for having helped US citizens hide money.

The result, Shaxson said, is that now “there are a few tax havens around the world that are very frightened of American clients, because they know that the US can hit them.”

Nevertheless, the seeming absence of Americans from the Panama Papers has fed conspiracy theories, such as claims the leak of the files was orchestrated by the CIA (LSE: 25754.L – news) to destabilize Russia and other countries.

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But Walker Guevara said there is still a lot to be examined in the trove of 11.5 million documents that make up the Panama Papers, and there could be more about Americans in there.

“It’s a huge trove of documents and maybe there’s something hiding there that we haven’t found yet. It’s a work in progress (Other OTC: UBGXF – news) .”

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Oprah erects 26 billboards around Louisville — demanding the cops who killed Breonna Taylor get arrested

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Media mogul Oprah Winfrey continues to keep people talking about the killing of Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police Department.

"For the first time ever, just last week, Oprah Winfrey dedicated the cover of her magazine to someone other than herself -- Breonna Taylor. Now, that cover will be all over Louisville in the form of billboards big and small," WLKY-TV reported Thursday.

"She and the O Magazine team say they are amplifying Taylor's story and the fight for justice by erecting 26 billboards across the city. That's one for every year of her life," the station reported.

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Trump’s vendetta against TikTok is a veil for his anti-China and anti-free speech views

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Last week, President Donald Trump announced that he was planning on banning TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. Shortly after he said this, the American multinational technology company Microsoft announced that it would attempt to purchase TikTok's US operations arm, although Trump has only given the company until Sept. 15 to pull this off.

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2020 Election

Eric Trump predicts his dad will win re-election: ‘The polls are looking great — you see it every day’

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One of President Donald Trump's children appeared on Fox News on Thursday to predict that his father would win re-election in November.

"Well listen, I think, um, I think we're looking really good," Eric Trump told Sean Hannity.

"The polls are looking great -- you see it every single day," Trump claimed. "The enthusiasm is tremendous."

"We're going to win," he predicted. "My father is going to win this election."

The prediction was offered the same day that NBC News released their first battleground map, showing Joe Biden on pace to win 334 Electoral College votes, Trump set to win 125 Electoral Votes, with 79 too close to call.

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