Opinion Brief

WikiLeaks' next target: Income-tax cheaters?

A Swiss banker says he gave chief WikiLeaker Julian Assange the names of more than 2,000 prominent tax evaders. Is this a secret-sharing spree we can all get behind?

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..."

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