At a press conference Monday, former Swiss bank executive Rudolf Elmer handed WikiLeaks' Julian Assange two discs that he says contain details on more than 2,000 people who evaded income taxes, legally or otherwise, through offshore banking. The list includes about 40 politicians and "pillars of society" from Europe, Asia, and the U.S., says Elmer, who ran the Cayman Islands operations of Swiss bank Julius Baer for eight years before being fired. Elmer says the leak should help "educate" non-bankers about how stacked the system is toward the wealthy. Is that a good use of WikiLeaks? (Watch an AP report about the latest leak)
Rat out the tax cheats: I'm honestly "of two minds about WikiLeaks," and especially conflicted about the dump of diplomatic cables, says Fiona Anderson in The Vancouver Sun. "However, I like the latest leaks." If Assange is going to push radical transparency, this kind of cheating by "politicians and pillars of society" is what he should focus on. I, for one, am "looking forward to seeing that information, if it ever gets out."
"WikiLeaks gets info on Swiss bank accounts"
This naming and shaming could be dangerous: Tax dodgers worldwide should be "quaking in their boots" about now, says Queen's University (Canada) law professor Art Cockfield, as quoted in The Toronto Sun. But "the problem is the WikiLeaks documents may also reveal legal tax planning" by wealthy people who legitimately "don't want their personal information made public, like how much money they have. Often, there are security concerns."
"Tax cheats on WikiLeaks' hitlist"
The target is the system, not the people: "Don't expect any juicy secrets about well-known celebrities to come out of this new release — at least not yet," says Martin Bryant in The Next Web. Both Elmer and WikiLeaks say that the point is exposing "the system that allows such tax evasion." We'll see whether the authorities look into the banking system once the leaked information is released, probably within a matter of weeks.
"WikiLeaks receives details of mass offshore tax evasion..."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Why Israel can no longer let the Palestinian Authority be responsible for security in the West Bank
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
- Grammar quiz: Do you know the passive voice?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Deficit scolds are the most crazed ideologues in America
Subscribe to the Week