SUDDENLY, the buzz world in Zambia and around the world is the “Paradise Papers.” They reveal how some people are really living in “paradise” even as there is widespread poverty around them.
In a nutshell, it is an expose of how some citizens around the globe seek refuge from heavy tax burdens in remote islands. Some refer to such locations as tax havens and invest their wealth there.
Yes, Mr Hakainde Hichilema is right that there is nothing illegal about investing one’s money in tax free havens.
Mr Hichilema says he feels proud that he is among those that have been identified to have accounts in offshore financial tax havens.
According to Mr Hichilema, it shows what the United Party for National Development has always believed in and preached, about how entrepreneurial Zambians can go out there and raise money in the international market place which could be invested back home to create wealth and job opportunities.
That according to the UPND president is how the party would be able to raise capital to develop Zambia’s economy – not from corruption.
But the truth of the matter is that the so-called super rich make use of these facilities not only to hide their riches but to avoid paying taxes.
The offshore finance industry puts trillions of dollars worldwide beyond the taxman’s reach, reports the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Not paying taxes in any country is not a moral issue but criminal. Keeping one’s money in another country is also not criminal, but morally wrong.
If there is nothing legally wrong, why is there so much hullaballoo throughout the world ever since the story broke through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and partner news outlets?
The bottom line though is that the rich use these tax havens to hide their wealth and evade tax in their home countries.
To an ordinary person, tax havens do not ring a bell. It is simply something beyond their comprehension.
But Zambians must sit up and heed what Dr Canisius Banda, the former UPND vice-president has observed and noted, that it is treasonable for a leader, or a person that seeks to lead to engage in practices that undertakes to avoid paying tax as such action is tantamount to killing citizens.
Mr Hichilema and others like him must be taken to task and not be allowed to hoodwink the public that they are not doing anything wrong.
We note that Finance Ministers of the European Union that represent the world’s largest market have vowed to take action following the leak of records exposing prominent members of the global business elite.
Acting German Finance Minister Peter Almaier said ahead of a meeting in Brussels with his eurozone counterparts after an offshore law firm again exposed the hidden wealth of individuals and showed how corporations, hedge funds and investors have skirted taxes.
“The leaked Paradise Papers have put renewed emphasis on the work which the European Commission is doing to fight tax avoidance,” Valdes Dombrovskis, vece-president of the Blo’s executive arm said in Brussels.
In short, it is a “rogues’ gallery” of the global elite. In essence, Mr Hichilema is proud to be part of this grouping of very bad global citizens.
Ironically, Zambians ought to be reminded that the Paradise Papers have come almost a year after the Panama Papers were leaked that also exposed shady global dealings.
The Panama leaks claimed the scalp of Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Guntaugsson as he was forced to resign when it was revealed he run an offshore company with his wife.
In Pakistan, the Supreme Court had Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif removed from office.
Are these the business activities that someone would wish to defend and boast about?