A Nov. 5 CBC headline broke the titillating news: “Paradise Papers offshore data leak reveals financial secrets of world’s elite.”
Juicy details were promised next: “Huge new leak of offshore tax records dubbed the Paradise Papers reveals financial secrets of the world’s elite, including the Queen, three former PMs and more than 120 other politicians across the globe.”
The report noted that more than 3,000 Canadian companies, trusts, foundations and individuals appeared in the records of offshore law firm Appleby and the corporate registries of 19 tax havens.
Leaked data from the law firm, the CBC report noted, shines a light on hundreds of well-known companies and wealthy Canadians who benefit from offshore trusts and corporations set up in countries where they pay little or no taxes, as a way to legally avoid — or potentially evade — paying taxes at home.
While Canadians are critical of those who don’t pay their fair share of taxes, an even worse situation was revealed at a Nov. 4 - 6 gathering in Rome, organized by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and Global Alliance for Legal Aid. It dealt with human trafficking.
Human trafficking is an industry of buying and selling human beings for forced labour, prostitution, exploitation and even harvesting organs. The International Labour Organization estimates human trafficking grosses $150 billion a year and is rapidly growing, with profits beginning to match those made in the illegal drug and arms trades.
Human beings are highly lucrative, a participant said, because a drug sold on the street can only be used once, while a person can be used and sold over and over again. One human rights group estimates traffickers can make $100,000 a year for each woman working as a sex slave, representing a return on investment of up to 1,000 per cent.
Worse than that is the story of how that participant, Rani Hong, became involved. She was stolen as a seven-year-old from her mother in a small village in India and sold into slavery. She was then kept in a cage to teach her to submit completely to her “master.”
Hong said no country is immune to human trafficking and educating the public is critical for bringing awareness and stemming demand for forced labour.
Taken together, human trafficking, illegal drugs and the arms trade make tax havens seem like minor players. It’s not only the money lost or diverted, it’s also the human lives lost and diverted.