07 Sep

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Denmark pays up to £1m for documents from anonymous source and plans to investigate up to 600 Danes who may have evaded tax

Christiansborg Palace

The Danish government negotiated support for the controversial deal from political parties in parliament. Photograph: Robert Fried / Alamy/Alamy

Denmark has become the first country in the world to apparently buy data from the Panama Papers leak, and now plans to investigate whether 500-600 Danes who feature in the offshore archive may have evaded tax.

Denmark’s tax minister, Karsten Lauritzen, said he will pay up to DKK9m (£1m) for the information, which comes from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. He said an anonymous source approached the Danish government over the summer.

The source sent over an initial sample of documents and the government reviewed them. After concluding they were genuine, it secretly negotiated support for the controversial deal from political parties in parliament, the minister said.

“Everything suggests that it is useful information. We owe it to all Danish taxpayers who faithfully pay their taxes,” Lauritzen said, admitting that he had originally been “very wary”. He added: “The material contains relevant and valid information about several hundred Danish taxpayers.”

Danish officials said the cash hasn’t yet been paid. “It’s not a complete deal yet,” one said. The minister wouldn’t reveal the precise sum but said it was a “single digit million” amount – between one and nine million kroner (£115,000-£1m).

Institution launched by Nobel prize winner Dr Albert Schweitzer on brink of closure as funding woes and racism dispute take toll

Dr Albert Schweitzer cradles two babies at the hospital he founded in Lambaréné, part of French Equatorial Africa (now Gabon).

Dr Albert Schweitzer cradles two babies at the hospital he founded in Lambaréné, part of French Equatorial Africa (now Gabon). Photograph: FPG/Getty

A Gabonese hospital founded more than a century ago by a Nobel peace prize-winning doctor to atone for colonial crimes is in the grip of a funding crisis that could force it to close.

The Albert Schweitzer hospital in Lambaréné, a town of 25,000 45 miles south of the equator, cannot pay its bills because funding from the government, which is struggling to cope with the global slump in oil prices, has not arrived.

At the same time, more than a century after its French-German founder arrived in Lambaréné, the hospital has been embroiled in a row about racism and corruption, with several former high-ranking hospital officials believing it would be better if it closed down.

Albert Schweitzer, a doctor, philosopher, missionary, musician and ecologist, travelled up the Ogooué river in 1913 to “make atonement for all the terrible crimes” committed by Europeans in Africa by building a hospital in what was then French Equatorial Africa.

Schweitzer, awarded the peace prize in 1952 for his ethical theory of reverence for life, was renowned for founding the Lambaréné hospital, which treated patients whether or not they could pay. Winston Churchill called him a “genius of humanity”; Time magazine, the “greatest man in the world”.

However, his hospital may soon admit its last patient. “It’s quite common that the money comes late,” said, Daniel Stoffel, president of the board. “But now it’s half a year. Until now, we’ve been able to pay salaries, but not more. It’s getting more and more difficult.”

Among locals, the hospital still has the same reputation as it did in Schweitzer’s time. Whoever you are, come and you will be treated. Payment is calculated according to what each patient can afford.

Elderly women who have been using the hospital all their lives plod up the hill, loudly thanking God that they can get free treatment. In the maternity ward, the families of new mothers spread out across the beds and floor, chatting. Children play football in the road outside the art therapy room, and the few cars go at a snail’s pace to avoid interrupting their game. There is a decidedly village feel.

But at its higher levels, the hospital has been in the grips of a struggle for control between the Gabonese authorities and its European supporters.

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The human toll of America’s public defender crisis

Years of drastic budget cuts have created bottomless caseloads for public defenders – the ‘pack mules of the system’ – and tipped the scales of justice against the poor

Part one of a three-part series reported in partnership with the Marshall Project

by . Video by

In the state with the highest rate of incarceration in the US, young black men are disproportionately affected by the lack of a properly functioning public defender system that is crumbling under the weight of ‘unstable, unreliable and inadequate’ funding

“What if I’d had more time?” Across the US, it is the question public defenders often find themselves asking the most. Would a young, pregnant African American woman in Lexington, Kentucky, who faces minor fraud charges laid down in April still be in jail if her lawyer had the time to appeal against an impossible $40,000 bail bond?

Could the 50-year-old illiterate white man in Cole County, Missouri, charged in August with vehicular assault and facing over a decade in prison, ever be assigned an attorney with the resources to defend him?

How many of the 30 defendants present for a single “mass plea” hearing in Louisiana’s 16th judicial district in June would have pleaded not guilty if they’d had more than 20 seconds of legal counsel?

In 1963, the landmark Gideon v Wainwright supreme court ruling enshrined the constitutional right for indigent criminal defendants – those who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer – to access legal counsel. But 53 years on, as the rate of incarceration across the country has more than quadrupled and up to 90% of criminal defendants in the US qualify as indigent, this cornerstone principle of the justice system has been eroded to breaking point.

As Ed Monahan, Kentucky’s public advocate and chief defender said: “We’re in crisis in Kentucky and in America.

“Public defenders are the pack mules of the system,” he said. “Pack mules can carry a lot. But you put one more box on an overburdened mule, and it won’t be able to function.”

Standing Rock Sioux tribe clashed with construction crew over weekend, saying the $3.8bn Dakota Access Pipeline disrupts land with ‘great historic significance’

Dakota Access Pipeline sacred ground

Native Americans march to the site of a sacred burial ground that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline on Sunday near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

An American Indian tribe succeeded on Tuesday in getting a federal judge to temporarily stop construction on some, but not all, of a $3.8bn four-state oil pipeline, but its broader request still hangs in the balance.

James Boasberg, a US district court judge, said on Tuesday that work will temporarily stop between North Dakota’s state highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe, but will continue west of the highway because he believes the US army corps of engineers lacks jurisdiction on private land.

He also said he will rule by the end of Friday on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s challenge of federal regulators’ decision to grant permits to the Dallas, Texas-based operators of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which will cross North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

A weekend confrontation between protesters and construction workers near Lake Oahe prompted the tribe to ask on Sunday for a temporary stop of construction. Four private security guards and two guard dogs received medical treatment, officials said, while a tribal spokesman noted that six people – including a child – were bitten by the dogs and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.

Bill Leone, an attorney for Dakota Access, said during Tuesday’s hearing that if it were not for the stoppages, the section in question would be finished by the end of this week.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman, Dave Archambault II, issued a statement after the ruling, saying: “Today’s denial of a temporary restraining order … west of Lake Oahe puts my people’s sacred places at further risk of ruin and desecration.”

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