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Lack of US Investors in Panama Papers Reflects Ease of Hiding Money in US

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The dearth of Americans named in the so-called Panama Papers as hidden owners of offshore shell companies is due in part to the presence of 13 US states that permit the same asset-hiding strategy, Tax Justice Network (TJN) senior advisor James Henry told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — A massive leak of documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca in early April has named owners of more than 210,000 offshore shell companies, Henry explained.

"The kinds of services that Mossack Fonseca is providing are just the kind of off-the-shelf secret companies and trusts," that can be set up in the United States, Henry said. "You don’t have to go to Panama. Why would anyone bother with a place that is 700 miles away?"

According to published reports, the names of less than 200 US taxpayers have turned up in a searchable database of the documents that has been published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Henry recalled a conversation between the law firm’s partner, Jurgen Mossack, and Tax Justice Network several years ago. Mossack was asked, hypothetically, where he would put his money, and Mossack replied, "Delaware," according to Henry.

"There are 13 US states that now offer asset protection trusts as good as Panama."

Tax Justice Network estimates that nearly 95 percent of more than $12 trillion in flight capital as of 2014 came from countries such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations as well as other countries.

"The point is, a lot of the offshore money that’s being exiled, a lot of the sort of non-patriotic behavior in the rest of the world is driven by bad governments, unstable governments and countries without clear economic strategies, the rule of law or protections for investors," Henry told Sputnik.

"Any rational investor there would move his money abroad," claimed Henry, who also serves as a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Investment.

Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull walks out of a government party room meeting in Canberra's Parliament House in this file picture taken February 9, 2015. - Sputnik International
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Other factors, Henry added, are contributing to a lack of US customers at the Panamanian law firm, including Panama’s recent history as a drug-trafficking and money-laundering haven that prompted a US invasion in 1989 and a more tax-compliant mindset of Americans.

James Henry is author of the book "Blood Bankers," which describes the international market for offshore funds.

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