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Prison is never a fun place to have to go. COVID-19 has made it even less so. Things are so bad that they’re letting people out to keep them safe from the sickness. (Not everyone, of course, but enough to make it next to impossible for California to fight its increasingly devastating wildfires with forced labor, which it to say it makes it impossible for California to fight them at all.)

Prison is an even less fun place to go in this year of the plague if you’re a member of a high-risk group—say, octogenarians—are more used to passing your days in Europe, tony suburbs of Boston and Key Biscayne; and enjoy a the sort of lifestyle you might bemoan missing out on behind bars. Of course, these realizations generally occur far too late, for example: when you are standing before a judge to answer for tax evasion and money laundering.

An attorney for von der Goltz, who was arrested in London in 2018, asked that the octogenarian be spared prison based on his age, frail health and risks inside prison from COVID-19. “Any period of incarceration is likely to kill him,” the attorney said….

“How could I have been so foolish?” von der Goltz said. “Why not just pay the taxes from this, especially since it would not have been impacting my life or lifestyle?”

Well, I can think of 4.3 million reasons to start. Plus, of thousands and thousands of alleged tax evaders in the millions and millions of Panama Papers, which represent the clients of just one palm-shaded tax-avoidance factory of who knows how many, Harald Joachim von der Goltz is still the only one to be indicted—and only after doing it for 17 years. The odds are still very much in favor of the von der Goltzes of the world: The judge in the case noted that 17% of American taxpayers don’t do all of the taxpaying they’re supposed to, and as hard as we try, 17% of Americans taxpayers are not in jail—not even 17% of the Black ones. And so, on the rare occasions they get, the book must be thrown to make the gamble a little closer to as “foolish” as von der Goltz now believes his to be.

A U.S. federal judge has sentenced a taxpayer to four years in prison for crimes revealed by the Panama Papers investigation…. “It’s not even a close question that von der Goltz be incarcerated,” Judge Richard M. Berman said on Monday…. Judge Berman rejected the arguments. “It can’t be that you can commit so many crimes for such a long period for such an excessive amount and then say, ‘I’m 83, pandemic, home confinement,’” Judge Berman said. “It’s just not in the realm of justice.”

First US taxpayer sentenced to prison for crimes revealed by Panama Papers [ICIJ]
U.S. Taxpayer in Panama Papers Investigation Sentenced to Prison [DoJ]


By Federal Bureau of Prisons ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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