Even when the poor get rich, the rich get richer. While leaks like the Panama and Paradise papers have exposed the global networks that the super-rich use to augment their already substantial incomes, plutocrats in developing economies continue to use the less fortunate to keep their money safe from prying governments. Take Mohammad Qadir, a rickshaw driver in Pakistan. It took Qadir over a year to save Rs 300 to buy his daughter a cycle, even as $22.5 million passed through his largely unused bank account. The absurdity of Qadir’s predicament is hardly rare. As Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan seeks to fulfil his campaign pledge to root out corruption and bring back money stashed abroad, reports have brought to light money laundering schemes that use the accounts of the poor as a pit stop for siphoning out money.
It is easy to think that plutocrats would find less egregious ways to hide their money. Or, god forbid, pay what they owe in taxes. Such an occurrence, of course, would throw much off course. And politicians, quite apart from being suspects themselves, will lose a campaign issue, one that seems to anger everyone and implicates very few. The rich, and the systems they subvert, remain untainted by the social contract — in a Hobbesian state of nature, they accumulate, devoid of empathy.
The victims of the daring deployment of funds, though, seem to have fully developed moral faculties. A common thread among those whose accounts held crores, however briefly, is the anguish they suffered as a result of what they thought were ill-gotten gains. There have also been cases of people being served with an enormous bill for back taxes. Perhaps the source of their problems could also have been the solution: The accounts could have been emptied out — a redistribution of wealth without the middle-man.