by Catherine Shakdam (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 3, Rajab, 1437)
Was Russian President Vladimir Putin the real target of the Panama papers’ leak? One cannot help but conclude this from reading the Western corporate-owned media.
Sold as the revelation of the decade after the WikiLeaks, the Panama Papers and the corruption it has unveiled need to be looked at from a different perspective: political. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that made a point of splashing and spreading the scandal in the media warned its intentions were purely journalistic and not politically motivated. It is, however, difficult to escape Western bias and the Western capitals’ propensity to point the finger at the one person who interestingly happens to NOT figure among the Panama Papers’ long list of crooks and truants: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin was not the target of the Panama Papers leak,” said Gerard Ryle, head of the ICIJ in an interview with TASS. “As you see now, it wasn’t a story about Russia. It was a story about the offshore world,” he added.
Ryle’s statement of course is in sharp stark contrast to international media coverage of the “largest leak in offshore history.” And while Putin or those close to him were not in fact in any way linked to the scandal, it did not stop mainstream media from featuring the Russian president on their front page indirectly implying he was the principal ringleader.
For instance, the British media appeared unified in their efforts to bash the Russian president while at the same time turning a virtual blind eye to the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron’s father was included in the list of those allegedly complicit in tax evasion. Some 76% of British media outlets mentioned the Russian president by name in their stories, while only 24% noted Cameron’s family role in the illicit offshore dealings.
The “move” did not go unnoticed by the Kremlin. Speaking to the press in early April, Dmitry Peskov, Moscow’s main spokesman emphasized, “Such ‘leaks,’ in our view, are meant to target audiences overseas. It is also clear that the degree of Putinophobia has reached a point where to speak well about Russia, or about some of its actions and successes, is impossible. One needs to speak [about Russia] in negative terms, the more the better, and when there’s nothing to say, you need to make things up. This is obvious to us.”
Needless to say that the corporate media’s desire to project President Putin as the chief villain of the story was the principal reason why the Panama Papers were made public in the first place. To believe that such “secrets” could suddenly slip into the public domain without some sort of oversight, or agenda would be naive. The Panama Papers were always intended as a political weapon — both a means to an end, and a powerful public opinion tool. How many times have we already seen lies being sold as truths, and facts passed as baseless allegations?
The most interesting aspect of the Panama Papers was the secrets they did not reveal, and the people they painstakingly avoided to mention: US politicians for example. Here is how Ryle explained the situation, “The papers unveiled the offshore assets of some 140 politicians and public servants all over the world, including 12 incumbent and former world leaders, but will not provide a glimpse into the life of the US political elite, as there’s no such information in the batch.”
Are we to believe that all US officials, politicians and corporate moguls are inherently honest? Or is it because the Panama Papers were designed to hit a certain target while offering the United States a halo of sanctity?
We now know that Russia, and more particularly President Putin, was sold out to public opinion like lambs for slaughter, so that their engineered “corruption” would taint them with dark suspicion. In other words a typical case of slander aimed at negatively influencing and tainting people’s view of Russia.
But why target Russia? Why have mainstream media outlets expended so much energy toward vilifying President Putin if not to discredit his policies, most specifically his support of Syria’s sovereign rights, his stance toward Iran, and of course his determination to confront the terrorists?
Seen in this light, the Panama Papers are not so groundbreaking after all; engineered would be a better description. In comments published on Twitter, the international whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks pointed to exactly this. It wrote on Twitter that the Panama Papers data leak was produced by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), “which targets Russia and [the] former USSR.”
“The ‘Putin attack’ was funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and American hedge fund billionaire George Soros,” WikiLeaks added, saying that the US government’s funding of such an attack is a serious blow to its integrity.
Even if the entire operation was not launched solely to discredit Russia, it is evident that the US sought to manipulate the scandal for this purpose, thus striking a blow at the Axis of Resistance whose leading member is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Beyond this lies another interesting theory, one that deserves to be pondered over.
In an interview with RT last month German journalist Ernst Wolff noted the following, “The American government is pursuing a policy of destabilization all over the world, and this [leak] also serves this purpose of destabilization. They are causing a lot of people all over the world and also a lot of money to find its way into the [new] tax havens in America. The US is preparing for a super big financial crisis, and they want all that money in their own vaults and not in the vaults of other countries.”