The Scandal of All Scandals
The Panama Papers scandal, which began with a mega-leak of documents detailing corruption and abuse of tax havens, is only just unfolding. Its first victim, the Prime Minister of Iceland, has resigned and prompted calls for fresh elections there. He will not be the last. From the New York Times:
The prime minister of Iceland stepped down on Tuesday, according to his deputy, succumbing to political pressure two days after an enormous leak of documents from a secretive Panamanian law firm about offshore shell companies and tax shelters.
The prime minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, was the first prominent political casualty from the document leaks known as the Panama Papers, which have shed a harsh light on the private financial activities of many rich and powerful people. …
The news that Iceland’s prime minister would step aside caused celebration across the tiny island nation of 323,000, which is still recovering from the global financial crisis eight years ago.
The idea of a document leak holding damaging scandalous details is hardly new. Wikileaks and Edward Snowden etched their names in history by trying to bring classified secrets to light, and the hacker group Anonymous has turned such behavior into a form of online activism.
And in a more fictional sense, even I had jumped on the bandwagon in sense. In 2009, my novel Confirmation saw a pair of secret societies brought down when their computer servers were discovered and accessed. The de-encrypted files showed the societies were conspiring to get the tie-breaking seat on the Supreme Court under their control. In the stories I’m working on right now, the impact from that scandal continues to be felt for years as more related shell companies and tax havens are unearthed.
The allure leaked documents is quite obvious. It is the intersection of an idealist generation, our nerdy pop culture and the Internet’s busiest conspiracy theorists. The idea that government officials, along with other rich and powerful individuals, are hiding wealth and important information from the public, and bring transparency to their part of the world could help reset our national priorities by replacing the corrupt with the competent.
Even with all that said, I am still in awe of the breadth of this unfolding scandal. Why? Because apparently the Americans tied up in this scandal have yet to be revealed. Which is already raising speculation about the Romneys and the Clintons of the world and what that could mean for their political futures. Saddle up, people, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!