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No. 4: The fifth estate

The phrase ‘Paradise Papers’ evokes images of tropical offshore islands with palm trees and a P.O. address for multinationals and high-net-worth individuals. The list of celebrities involved in one way or another is almost endless. Shakira, Madonna, Keira Knightly, the Queen, Prince Charles, the estate of the late Michael Hutchens, Justin Timberlake, and Amitabh Bachchan. We picture Lewis Hamilton in a private jet.

 The fifth estate

The fifth estate is a new entry this year

Idyllic lands without taxes, without transparency and political opposition, all elsewhere.

Then a rude awakening for the scandalised public. It's all legal and it doesn't just take place offshore but emanates from the financial centres of the world: the UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Hong Kong, Singapore.

Australian tax commentator Michael West chides the mainstream press. "The media ignores the real tax culprits," he writes in his blog. "The architects of global tax avoidance must be indulging in a quiet chuckle, a nervous chuckle perhaps, because the media has once again missed the forest for the trees."

As in last year's Global Tax 50 entry for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' (ICIJ's) work on the Panama Papers, International Tax Review applauds the journalists who toil through the millions of documents to shine the light on intricate tax avoidance schemes hidden in offshore structures.

But the entry this year is for all the journalists who are trying to make sense of the vast amount of information unearthed by the ICIJ and who distil the debate down to its essence: calling out governments and politicians as enablers who obstruct tax transparency and institutional reform.

One of them was fearless investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia from Malta.

Galizia linked Malta's president to scandals revealed in the Panama Papers, allegations which many believe got her killed. "My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists," her son Matthew Caruana said.

"But she was also targeted because she was the only person doing so. This happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a journalist. Which makes her the first person left dead."

While the leaking of vast amounts of documents provides the opportunity to see what individuals and companies get up to behind closed doors, it is journalists who must use this opportunity to tell the stories to the public. German politician and former vice-chair of the European Parliament's PANA Committee, Fabio De Masi, tells International Tax Review that he observed some 'leak fatigue' in the aftermath of the Panama Papers.

"Without tax [there is] no democratic choice over our future. The public outrage over scandals such as LuxLeaks or Panama Papers requires engaged journalists who hold governments to account after public attention has moved on. But I am confident that in the information age, tax dodgers will be unable to hide," De Masi said.

This entry in the Global Tax 50 is for the fifth estate, Daphne Galizia and all journalists around the world who are in the line of fire for reminding us of our civic duty to demand checks and balances for political power and money.

The Global Tax 50 2017

View the full list and introduction

The top 10 • Ranked in order of influence

1. US Tax Reform Big 6

2. Dawn of the robots

3. The breakdown of global consensus

4. The fifth estate

5. Margrethe Vestager

6. Arun Jaitley

7. Sri Mulyani Indrawati

8. Pascal Saint-Amans and Achim Pross

9. Richard Murphy

10. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

The remaining 40 • In alphabetic order

Tomas Balco

Piet Battiau

Monica Bhatia


Rasmus Corlin Christensen

Seamus Coffey

Jeremy Corbyn

Rufino de la Rosa

Fabio De Masi

The Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union

Maria Teresa Fabregas Fernandez

The fat tax

Maya Forstater

Babatunde Fowler

The GE/PwC outsourcing deal

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)

Meg Hillier

Chris Jordan

Wang Jun

James Karanja

Bruno Le Maire

John Pombe Joseph Magufuli

Cecilia Malmström

The Maltese presidency of the EU Council

Paige Marvel

Theresa May

Angela Merkel

Narendra Modi

Pierre Moscovici

The European Parliament Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA)

The Paris Agreement

Grace Perez-Navarro

Alexandra Readhead

Heather Self


Tax Justice Network

Donald Trump

United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters

WU Global Tax Policy Center

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