Swiss Bank Whistleblower: CIA Released Panama Papers
The greatest financial whistle-blower of all time believes the CIA is behind the release of more than 11 million financial documents known as the Panama Papers.
“Quite frankly, my feeling is that this certainly an intelligence agency operation,” Bradley Birkenfeld told CNBC on Tuesday, April 12. “The CIA, I am sure is behind this.”
Birkenfeld, credited with exposing schemes Swiss bank UBS used so its American clients could evade paying taxes, notes that the Panama Papers has so far only exposed the “enemies” of the United States – Russia, China, and others.
“If you’ve got NSA and CIA spying on foreign governments they can certainly get into a law firm like this,” Birkenfeld said. “But they selectively bring the information to the public domain that doesn’t hurt the U.S. in any shape or form. That’s wrong. And there’s something seriously sinister here behind this.”
Birkenfeld described the exposure of British PM David Cameron’s financial dealings as “collateral damage.” However, it must be noted that while U.S. and U.K. are allies, the conservative Cameron appeared to have a very public falling out with U.S. president Barack Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit just days before the Panama Papers were released.
Birkenfeld was awarded more than US$100 million by the IRS in February 2009 for showing how the Swiss bank UBS and others enabled tax evasion by U.S. taxpayers. The subsequent investigation against Swiss bank UBS, Birkenfeld’s former employer, resulted in a $780m fine.
The Swiss banking giant also to pay US$1.5 billion in damages in December 2012 to settle criminal conspiracy and fraud charges that it manipulated the benchmark Libor rate.
Birkenfeld also said that during his time as a Swiss banker, Mossack Fonseca was known as one piece of the vast offshore maze used by bankers and lawyers to hide money from tax authorities. But he also said that the firm that is at the center of the global scandal was also seen as a relatively small player in the overall offshore tax evasion business.
“We knew that firm very well in Switzerland. I certainly knew of it,” Birkenfeld said.
But Mossack Fonseca was just one of a number of firms in Panama offering such services, he said. “The cost of doing business there was quite low, relatively speaking,” he said. “So what you would have is Panama operating as a conduit to the Swiss banks and the trust companies to set up these facilities for clients around the world.”