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To label itself a democracy, Britain must end its network of kleptocratic tax havens

A nation that prides itself on clean and liberal democratic values, the United Kingdom has a direct responsibility to deter kleptocratic leaders and discourage global elites from immoral lucrative schemes. “There is no place for dirty money in Britain,”, David Cameron said in 2015.

 However, it emerged that the UK functions as a lodestone for the world’s plundered wealth. The Pandora Papers, a massive data leak, released almost two years ago, uncovered a disheartening story about the true face of modern Britain. Indeed, it was not the first discovery of its kind, prior to that the Paradise papers revealed similar findings. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) unearthed the financial dealings of more than 330 politicians and billionaires from 90 countries and territories. In doing so, it revealed Britain’s instrumental role in the modern global economy of tax havens that obscures international finance at the expense of the everyday person.

Organizations such as the ICIJ and the Tax Justice Network have probed and revealed the truth behind an utterly corrupt system for decades. They encourage people to think deeper and demand more from a system bereft by inequality and kleptocracy. Despite this, it would not be imprudent to suggest that those in power could end these practices, yet they continue because it serves the interests of the British ruling elites. 

Demagogue leaders plague the international political landscape. Rising inequality, attacks on human rights, war, and global wealth injustice signify a deeply unjust world order that emboldens the rich and powerful, whilst harming the poor and powerless.

Britain and its overseas territories facilitate one-third of total taxes dodged around the world, predicts the Tax Justice Network, a UK-based advocacy group concerned by tax avoidance and tax havens. The effects of London’s complicity in tax evasion manifest two-fold. Domestically, the UK government refuses to raise taxes for the rich, instead implementing austerity measures that target the working class. Meanwhile, on an international scale, underdeveloped countries suffer at the dirty hands of the British ruling elites and their reprehensible money practices.

The Pandora Papers revealed an extensive list of highly influential people disturbingly entangled in UK domestic markets. The King of Jordan secretly amassed £70 million worth of UK property. While, the Azberjaini President Ilham Aliyev and his family are involved in property deals in the UK worth more than £400 million. Not to mention an array of Russian oligarchs that squirrel their money through British tax havens.

To be sure, these practices solicited by the UK’s financial markets and bent lawyers are done so entirely legally, depriving money from citizens that fall subject to these systems. Drawn up in the 20th Century during the slow withdrawal of British colonial rule in the Caribbean and West Indies, mechanisms to perpetrate tax evasion have grown exponentially. The inception of tax havens traces back to the sixties, while migrants crossed the Atlantic, British administrators and lawyers seized an opportunity to make themselves filthy rich. They saw an opening in systems fractured by British colonial control and set up an entirely new system to continue the rupturing of a broken system to benefit their own financial needs.

However, it goes without saying that anything legal can be made illegal.  

 The mechanisms to end tax evasion exist. Britain created its network of offshore tax havens in the 1960s, so we can very well put an end to it in the 21st century. It would be a matter of investing money into creating greater policing of immoral law-evading practices. In the short run, it would be an expensive endeavor but in the long run, the benefits to all in society would be limitless.

UK politicians have been voted in on promises to clamp down on corruption, yet these very politicians facilitate and take advantage of the corrupt system. One only has to take a glimpse at the dubious dealings of Tony Blair, ex-Labour prime minister of the UK. Blair avoided over $400,000 worth of taxes when he acquired an offshore company to buy an office in London.

Indeed, the unjust global system will continue to flourish so long as the profiteers remain in ascendance. 

While ordinary people pay our taxes, the richest 1% that own more than half of the world’s wealth circumvent the obligations of citizenship. Britain’s menacing hand in all of this not only multiplies existing structures so the rich get richer, and the poor continue to suffer, but it also functions to greatly stifle democracy. 

It is deeply undemocratic if a donation to a ruling party, or the owner of multiple properties in a region buys you more power than contributing to the functioning of the economy. It is a deeply sobering reminder that our system’s decision-making has shifted from one person one vote to one pound one vote.

The United Kingdom needs an upheaval of its despairingly flawed system that continues to serve the ruling elite at the expense of everyday citizens. Powerful people get what they want, and we the ordinary people are forced to bear and grin it. The mechanisms are there to stop the practices of the global elites, but the UK government is devoid of any political gumption to end tax evasion. 

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