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Putin: The Whipping Boy of Panama
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The front page of The Guardian on the first day of Panama Leaks:

guardian-front-page-on-panama-leaks

$2 billion!? Very impressive. Though admittedly, a rather disappointing find after more than a decade’s worth of searching for Putin’s $200 billion stash.

But still, a curious choice of whom to focus on, considering the minor detail that Putin’s name doesn’t appear in the Panama Papers even once.

putins-name-doesnt-appear

This isn’t the only curious thing about it.

For instance, there is also the observation that it comes on the heels of the tabloid stories that Putin is dating Wendy Deng, a fantastic claim which has been repeated uncritically because if it’s about Putin, it’s true.

And the Reuters story about a series of women allegedly connected with Putin all buying properties from the same real estate agent.

Not to mention the identity of the two other main “first day” targets: Messi, aka FIFA. which awarded the football 2018 World Cup to Russia, and Icelandic politicians who put banksters in jail.

Then there is also the curious fact that only 149 documents of the 11 million total were actually released in the first batch, which means that our intrepid journalists must have started off by doing selective searches on all the people they could think of who they assumed were associated with Putin from his Saint-Petersburg days in the 1990s, discovered that some of them became very rich during the economic boom of the 2000s, and tallied the total value of their assets to arrive at the not especially impressive figure of $2 billion (considering the numbers of people involved in this grand conspiracy) that they were stashing away for Putin in a tropical tax haven… just like other perfectly respectable members of the global elite, from Xi Jinping, the Saudis, and German corporations to David Cameron, Petro Poroshenko, and Mitt Romney.

None of which is not exactly news.

But it is precisely Putin who has attracted something like 50% of the media fallout from the Panama Leaks. The political class of a basically irrelevant country, albeit the only one in the world which prosecuted its banker class for their financial machinations; as well as the United States’ new bugbear, FIFA, garnered another 25%.

Leaving only 25% of the coverage for everyone else:

panama-leaks-world-map

All in all, a most curious set of coincidences indeed.

There was overwhelming demand to release all the documents and make them available in a searchable database:

wikileaks-should-we-release

Unfortunately, this time, it wasn’t Wikileaks who possessed the treasure trove. Too bad!

wikileaks-too-bad

So naturally what happened was that the range of documents that were released were from the outset tightly constricted and focused against those entities the Western order considers to be its enemies, and filtered through a journalistic establishment that it has become increasingly clear loyally serves that same order.

Even those targets that did not meet the above criteria were in general either already known (the offshore adventures of David Cameron’s father), universally suspected anyway (the Saudis), or who were either irrelevant and/or had undermined and humiliated the Western order in some way (Icelandic politicians, FIFA).

Why this might have been the case becomes a bit clearer when we look at the outfit behind the Panama Leaks. That outfit is the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which is funded in its entirety by the US Center for Public Integrity, and which in turn is sponsored by… well, Soros, in short.

And all the other usual regime change/color revolution suspects.

icij-sponsors

Craig Murray explains the real deal:

The Suddeutsche Zeitung, which received the leak, gives a detailed explanation of the methodology the corporate media used to search the files. The main search they have done is for names associated with breaking UN sanctions regimes. The Guardian reports this too and helpfully lists those countries as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Russia and Syria. The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”

In effect the main targets of Panama Papers and especially Putin are mere whipping boys, politically convenient decoys to draw attention away from people asking hard questions about the banal realities of a world ruled by the 1% offshore aristocracy.

Regardless, the Guardian’s resident neocon Natalie Nougayrède, riding on the headwinds of a media storm that the media-industrial complex she serves has itself ignited, goes on to proclaim her divine knowledge of not only the most intimate details of Putin’s social ties the secrets of the Dark Lord of the Kremlin’s mind itself:

The fact that Putin’s name does not appear in the Panama Papers will not calm the paranoia and conspiracy theories that his regime thrives upon. Indeed, these revelations will be seen in Moscow’s ruling circles as part of a CIA-led operation involving the manipulation of the “Anglo-Saxon” media.

So Putin leads like 50% of the stories in Western coverage of the Panama Leaks, despite his name not appearing in any of the Panama documents even in passing, and yet thinking there is anything unusual about this makes you a conspiratard or a “useful servant” of the Russian mafia state at best, if not a proxy of Putin himself.

After all, its not like a major former editor of a prominent German outlet has ever claimed that the CIA holds extensive influence over the German media, nor have there ever been any hints whatsoever that there is an organized Western intelligence operation to undermine Putin. We know that this is just not the sort of underhanded tactics that any Western democracy would ever use.

Move along, citizen, nothing to see here.

None of this is to deny that Putin and his associates do not lead lives of luxury, have exploited their political connections to make money, or even that some of them use offshore tax havens to avoid taxes or keep their assets safe from expropriation.

To the contrary, all three of these statements are substantially true.

But possibly the single biggest irony in this entire affair is that someone positively inclined towards the Kremlin could just as easily argue that the Panama Papers prove that Russia’s fight against offshoring was actually improving in recent years, under Putin:

In internal letters contained in Mossack Fonseca files, Malyushin was identified as the “beneficial owner” behind Panama-based Anttrin Services Corp., only in 2013, when the company suddenly shut down. As it appears from letters, Malyushin was in a hurry to get rid of his company.

Most likely, this was related to changes in Russian legislation. In the first half of 2013, a new pack of anti-corruption laws was adopted forbidding Russian officials from having foreign bank accounts or using foreign financial instruments, including holding shares in companies.

This is a datapoint that the 2013 anticorruption law forbidding Russian bureaucrats from holding bank accounts abroad is actually working. Incidentally, to add to the irony, that same law had been condemned at the time of its publication by the purportedly (but actually nothing of the sort) “pro-Putin” Forbes blogger Mark Adomanis, who portrayed it as a “forcible asset repatriation” that would reinforce Russian autocracy and put Putin in a “much, much more powerful and domineering position.”

If you were a journalist with a pro-Kremlin agenda you could certainly argue this point with at least as much legitimacy as if you were to follow the Western MSM party line and focus on what Panama Leaks “prove” about Putin and his entourage.

However, that journalist would almost universally be condemned as a Putin shill and not really a journalist at all, whereas the likes of neocon blowhard Natalie Nougayrède and serial plagiariser Luke Harding are free to roam and dominate Western media op-ed spaces with their own paranoid ramblings. Of late, they have even broken free from the informed scrutiny of their readers, with the Guardian’s Russia journalism apparently having joined that triggering triad of “race, immigration and Islam” on which the Guardian no longer accepts comments from the great unwashed of the “Comment is Free” discussion boards.

Which is perhaps just as well given how thoroughly the Western Narrative has become discredited even amongst The Guardian’s readers, despite the endless purges it has instigated over the years against its critics.

 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    … and other western news media put Ukrainian president Petr Poroshenko’s picture first in their coverage of the Panama Leaks. (With more justification than putting Putin there, because Poroshenko’s name appears in the leaked documents while Putin’s does not.)

    Anatoly, you have proven again, in case there was doubt, that the Guardian is a joke of a “newspaper”. Not all western news media are like the Guardian, however. I would wager that the anti-Russian agenda is secondary to the prime motive for all this Panama Leaks hype: cracking down on (legal) tax avoidance, banning cash transactions, negative interest rates, more surveillance, less freedom for us all (not the ultra-rich, who will always find and exploit loopholes to keep their wealth). The statist agenda. I’m told it’s not unheard of in Russia, too.

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  2. Something seems to be wrong with the post above…the “Though the president’s name does not appear…” section appears three times in the text.
    Have to agree with you, and I’m not much of a Russophile…but the way Putin is demonised by Western media is just bizarre and ridiculous. A lot of Western journalists are stupid and/or scum. And I don’t really give a f*** about these financial dealings while my country gets inundated by Muslims with the support of the establishment and the media’s propaganda.

    [AK: Re-appears three times in the text. Its a screenshot of the Guardian site that I altered for emphasis. Maybe that didn't work out.]

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    • Replies: @German_reader
    @AK

    My mistake, I was somewhat inattentive and didn't realize it was an embedded screenshot. Sorry.
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  3. Komment Macht Frei has become ludicrously sensitive to dissenting views since the Kiev coup.

    I had an account on CiF from its inception to 2014. Since then I generally get banned within a month for doing things like posting links to old (counter narrative) Graun articles.

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  4. I suspect Nougayrède’s success owes much to her being a blowhard in another sense of the word as well.
    The weed of unacknowledged copying has indeed sunk deep roots in the Guardian. Apart from Wykehamist tool Harding, there is posh comedian Marina Hyde, who descended so low that she actually plagiarised from Gawker.

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  5. considering the numbers of people involved in this grand conspiracy

    How many?

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  6. The Guardian is always good for a laugh, like Salon or the Onion.

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  7. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    DailyMail put Putin’s name into this very prominently in it’s story headlines yet, as noted, he’s really not listed. Associates are supposedly fronting for him as prior stories have had it all along although nothing has ever been validated. Where’s the Americans, are any also involved? Where does Erdogan keep his loot? Saudis having money parked all over the place hardly seems unusual or illegal under their laws so what’s the story in that? Is any of the money socked away ill-gotten through bribery, drug trafficking or something similar, that’s what I want to know. How many places like this are there anyway?

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  8. Guess who argued against America’s free-trade agreement with Panama five years ago, pointing out that it was a well-known illegal tax-shelter haven? Yup! Sen. Bernie Sanders: https://www.facebook.com/gabi.uribe.39?fref=ts

    The Grauniad has gotten really bad in recent years; so bad, in fact, that some people I know started up their own website, ‘Off-Guardian’, last year just to skewer its biased coverage: http://off-guardian.org/2016/04/04/panama-papers-revealing-details-live-in-the-gaps-between-the-lines/

    It has since become a haven for lots of posters banned from commenting at The Graun.

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  9. It appears to be an attack on the BRICS. So far the media is focused mainly on China, India and Russia. Brazil was also briefly mentioned. Mystery about the USA and Israel.

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  10. @Indeed, these revelations will be seen in Moscow’s ruling circles as part of a CIA-led operation involving the manipulation of the “Anglo-Saxon” media.

    They are always seen that way because that is what it is. But in that case, there are indications that the Russians were expecting the “blow”. Dmitry Peskov on 27-03-16, in an interview with RT:
    “They say that Russia has a bad public image. Do you know who else now has a bad image – the United States. We are currently in a state of information warfare with the trend-setters in the information space, most notably with the Anglo-Saxons, their media,” Putin’s spokesman said (days before it happened).
    The Australian TV reporting the case concentrated mostly on Putin (although 800 Australians were in the direct line of fire). And they inserted in the news a clip from Peskov’s interview as if it happened after the ‘revelations’! So much for the “news”.

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  11. A funny quirk in the saga of the new ‘Panama affair’ (Panama remained forever associated with swindle and scandal after the famous Panama Affair of 1892):

    “Russian prosecutors will open an investigation into the financial activities of the Russian citizens named in the leaked documents of a Panama law firm specializing in setting up offshore companies.
    “Russia’s General Prosecution Office will verify the data made public by national and international media sources regarding some Russian individuals and entities, allegedly having offshore companies and bank accounts,” Aleksandr Kurennoy, spokesperson for the office, said.”

    Those who will be hit will be exactly the ones supposed to be the ones that the MSM indicates as those who would bring down Putin, his ‘cronies’!

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  12. Soros, of course. But what about the “Legatum Institute” of the darling Anne Applebaum and Michael Weiss (the daily beast)?

    “Countering Russian Propaganda—A New Legatum Institute Initiative”:

    “Vladimir Putin’s Russia does not just dominate the media landscape at home—it is also making propaganda inroads in the West. Countering Russian disinformation is the subject of a conference this week at the Legatum Institute, a London-based think-tank. ‘The Menace of Unreality: Combatting Russian Disinformation in the 21st Century’, held in association with the Washington DC-based Atlantic Council, will be attended by high-level government, academic and media figures on 30 October (2014)…A livestreamed public panel discussion will include Geoffrey Pyatt, US Ambassador to Kiev; Oleksander Scherba, Ambassador-at-Large for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Michael Weiss, Editor-in-Chief, The Interpreter; Peter Pomerantsev, author of Revolutionary Tactics: Insights from Police and Justice Reform in Georgia; and John Herbst, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Centre. Anne Applebaum, journalist and author of ‘Gulag’ and ‘Iron Curtain; The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56’ will moderate.”

    “JAW-DROPPING04.04.16 3:13 PM ET
    Putin’s Panama Papers Caper
    Years of rumors about the Russian ruler’s incredible fortune moved a step closer to fact over the weekend with a leak that far eclipses WikiLeaks’ cables or Snowden’s revelations.” by… Michael Weiss. He starts by quoting an “anecdote, recounted in Karen Dawisha’s 2014 book Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?” (about misdemeanors of Putin when he was still a nobody) and drawing the conclusion in advance: (the anecdote) “moved a step closer from plausible but unconfirmed accusation to compelling likelihood this weekend with the publication of the so-called Panama Papers”. ‘Plausible but unconfirmed’, ‘compelling likelihood’. Why do you need facts? A golden rule of journalism is: “never let facts stand in the way of a good story”. It was formulated by Mark Twain some 150 years ago: ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’
    In politics like in journalism: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” (Karl Rove).

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  13. @German_reader
    Something seems to be wrong with the post above...the "Though the president's name does not appear..." section appears three times in the text.
    Have to agree with you, and I'm not much of a Russophile...but the way Putin is demonised by Western media is just bizarre and ridiculous. A lot of Western journalists are stupid and/or scum. And I don't really give a f*** about these financial dealings while my country gets inundated by Muslims with the support of the establishment and the media's propaganda.

    [AK: Re-appears three times in the text. Its a screenshot of the Guardian site that I altered for emphasis. Maybe that didn't work out.]

    @AK

    My mistake, I was somewhat inattentive and didn’t realize it was an embedded screenshot. Sorry.

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  14. NBC Nightly News had a segment on Monday that lasted 2 minutes and 15 seconds by Andrea Mitchell (wife of Alan Greenspan) in which the primary focus was on Putin and the secondary focus was on actor Jackie Chan ( kid you not). Not one mention of Poroshenko. http://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/massive-panama-papers-leak-reveals-world-leaders-offshore-accounts-658805827936

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