The Panama Papers should be no surprise. I was there in the 1970s, when the system they’ve exposed was set in motion. As an Economic Hit Man (an EHM), I helped forge this global economy that is based on legalized crimes. It’s a system in which 62 individuals have as much wealth as half the world’s population, and a handful of the super-rich control governments around the globe. Big corporations benefit from infrastructure and social services without having to foot the bill. Instead, average U.S. citizens pay for it with their hard-earned tax dollars, while the very rich and their corporations shelter their incomes in tax havens like Panama.
The foundations for Panama as a tax shelter go back to 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt fomented a rebellion to wrest Panama from Colombia so the U.S. could build the Panama Canal. J.P. Morgan and Company became the new country’s official fiscal agent. Soon Panama passed laws allowing John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company to register its ships there, avoiding U.S. taxes and regulations — and Panamanian tax shelters were born.
I was sent to Panama to convince then-head of state Omar Torrijos to stop insisting the U.S. turn canal ownership over to Panama, and to soften his support for Latin America’s nationalistic movements. Torrijos would not yield on the canal. But he did let his country become a tax haven for international corporations. He told me, “If your country is determined to exploit mine, the least I can do is help your corporations avoid paying taxes that support the CIA and Pentagon!”