Jhe explosive revelations about Swiss secrets, reported by the Guardian and a number of international media, are a continuation of the groundbreaking work of the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers. In a way, it’s the same old story over and over again. Every time journalists lift the curtain of financial sector secrecy, a web of corruption and nefarious activity is exposed, disproportionately by shady clients and families of dictators, with a handful of seemingly respectable politicians in democracies caught. in the net.
But this time there is something different. This time it’s not a small, obscure offshore island or a struggling developing country trying to find an alternative business model to drugs. It is a large bank in the center of Europe, in one of the most prosperous countries in the world; a country where the “rule of law” is Assumed reign supreme. All the more disappointing as the country and the bank involved have made promises of transparency and to do better. And that’s the point: without more transparency, there can be no accountability.
In fact, Switzerland’s position appears increasingly two-sided, with a legal framework that penalizes those who try to discover its secret. Countries around the world have passed whistleblower laws, recognizing how difficult it is to uncover unwanted behavior. Frances Haugen’s exposure of Facebook’s wrongdoings probably wouldn’t have been possible without tough US whistleblower laws. But Switzerland, one of the oldest democracies in the world, appears to have doubled down on its commitment to secrecy, regardless of the incentives it offers for bad behavior, by threatening journalists and others who try to access data. showing what is happening in the darkness of its financial system.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, no Swiss media were able to join the global journalism collaboration due to the danger of serious legal consequences under the country’s bank secrecy laws. But journalists from other countries should also be commended for risking the possibility of prosecution by Swiss authorities. Certainly, Switzerland must be aware of the chilling effect of its legislation: perhaps its very intention was to preserve its business models for as long as possible, to take a small share of the ill-gotten gains of others, in exchange for providing a safe and secret place to hoard and store the geld.
Switzerland’s secrets have two particularly alarming aspects. The international journalistic collaboration has seen only a small part of the bank’s customer data, but if in this tiny part are already so many problematic customers, including dictators and their families, suspected war criminals, intelligence officials and chiefs, a human trafficker, sanctioned businessmen and human rights violators – a veritable gallery of thugs – what would we see if the bank window were bigger ?
Second, it seems that the countries that suffer the most from the bank’s aid to bad actors are developing countries and emerging markets. The revelation confirms what experts have long warned: Switzerland has agreed to an automatic exchange of information primarily with other advanced countries, but not with poor countries, and especially those that may harbor these illicit activities. As a result, kleptocracy and corruption can still thrive.
It’s good to see that journalists believe in their duty to report, and that they fight for the “right to know” of citizens of countries like Switzerland, who cannot control what their politicians hide. Politicians from advanced countries like to make speeches condemning corruption elsewhere. But it is countries like Switzerland that are the main catalysts: that provide the safe haven, guaranteeing long-term returns.
Let’s be clear: Switzerland is not alone. He rightly complains that closing the door there will only shift business to real estate and finance in Miami, London or other money laundering hubs. Yet there is something morally repugnant about those in the US, UK or Switzerland who live off the loot stolen from those who are so much poorer. And countries like Switzerland that have devised a legal code that makes this system thrive should be particularly embarrassed.
How many stories, how many revelations, how many exposures will it take for Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries to change their banking and real estate secrecy laws, and all other activities that facilitate money laundering and promote crime and corruption? While this hoard showed that Switzerland benefited from a flow of money from poor countries, the system itself is corrupt: the rotting of tainted money spoils everything it comes in contact with.
Hopefully the secrets of Switzerland, this enormous achievement of honest and honorable journalism, will put those who resisted the creation of a more transparent financial and economic system to shame.