So let's say you save your quarters in a piggy bank that you keep on a shelf in your room. But your mom keeps checking up on how much you're putting in and how much you're taking out. You don't like that, so what you need is a second piggy bank that you keep somewhere else. Your friend Johnny's mom is busy. She doesn't have time to check on piggy banks. You can bring a spare bank over there; then money can come and go without anyone being the wiser.
假設你把你的 25 分硬幣存在房間架子上的小豬撲滿裡。不過你媽媽一直來檢查你存了多少錢和拿了多少錢。你不喜歡那樣，所以你需要的是另一個放在其他地方的小豬撲滿。你朋友強尼的媽媽很忙。她沒時間檢查撲滿。你可以帶一個備用撲滿去他家；然後錢就可以神不知鬼不覺地進出。
But maybe Johnny's mom isn't really too busy. Maybe she's just lazy. Maybe she's deliberately telling the whole neighborhood that for a small fee, she'll keep their piggy banks safe and not pay attention to what happens. That's what countries like Panama and the Cayman Islands and other tax havens do. They have very weak regulations in terms of watching when money comes in or out of bank accounts. And they have rules that make it easy to form a corporation without disclosing who owns it. So basically everyone gets to write a fake name on their piggy bank.
There's a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca. They've got over 40 offices in dozens of countries around the world. They specialize in setting up these kind of special piggy banks. They're called "shell companies"—hollow vessels that don't conduct any business; they just own financial assets on behalf of their real owners. There's been this massive leak of over two terabytes' worth of Mossack Fonseca documents to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and it sheds an unprecedented light on the world of shell companies.
有一間名叫「莫薩克馮賽卡」的法律事務所。他們在全球許多國家內有超過 40 間辦公室。他們專門設置這樣的特殊撲滿。那些撲滿就叫「空殼公司」－－未從事任何生意的空殼；它們只是代表公司真正的所有人擁有那些金融資產。近來有超過 2 TB 的大量莫薩克馮賽卡事務所文件資料外洩，透露給國際調查記者聯盟，而這份文件史無前例地揭露空殼公司的世界。
People can use these shell companies for legitimate reasons—sometimes you just need privacy. But they're also really useful for covering up scandalous or embarrassing information. The Panama Papers show that close associates of Vladimir Putin have taken over two billion dollars' worth of assets and put them into offshore shell companies, and that the prime minister of Iceland actually held financial interests in bankrupt Icelandic banks, even as he was involved in political negotiations over what should be done with the banks.
And the main use of offshore shell companies is avoiding taxes, because the government can't tax money that it can't find. One of the memos says (quote), "95 percent of our work coincidentally consists in selling vehicles to avoid taxes." These tax havens are usually small countries that could be persuaded to clean up their act, but so far, political leaders in the big countries haven't wanted to make them do it.
- 「假設、比方說」- Let's Say
So let's say you save your quarters in a piggy bank that you keep on a shelf in your room.
假設你把你的 25 分硬幣存在房間架子上的小豬撲滿裡。
- 「設置、開創」- Set Up
They specialize in setting up these kind of special piggy banks.
- 「代表...」- On Behalf Of
...they just own financial assets on behalf of their real owners.
- 「使...清楚地顯出」- Shed Light On
...and it sheds an unprecedented light on the world of shell companies.
- 「掩蓋」- Cover Up
But they're also really useful for covering up scandalous or embarrassing information.
- 「正當、恰好在...之時」- Even As
...even as he was involved in political negotiations over what should be done with the banks.
- 「改頭換面」- Clean Up One's Act
These tax havens are usually small countries that could be persuaded to clean up their act...
- 「到目前為止」- So Far
...but so far, political leaders in the big countries haven't wanted to make them do it.