We are witnessing an extraordinary global upheaval, the outcome of which seems very uncertain at best. In my view, it is a populist reaction to globalization, and a dramatic shift in politics around the World, from economic issues to cultural issues. I see globalization as ultimately an inevitable evolution of human culture, but which by its very nature and the acceleration in the pace of change with the World Wide Web, is fomenting unrest and reaction. Marshall McLuhan, the great Canadian visionary correctly predicted the rise of the “global village” in the 1960’s. But neither McLuhan nor we foresaw the backlash against the Internet and efforts by China, Russia, Turkey and other countries to block free access to the Internet. The global economy also has essentially stagnated since the Global Financial Meltdown. This has been a warning of greater issues rising up around the World. Xenophobia, racism, gender issues, freedom of expression, environmentalism, and terrorism have displaced economics as the top political issues. How this all plays out in the “global village” is anyone’s guess.

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The global agribusiness industry has recently seen a feeding frenzy of merger and acquisition activity. The announcement this week of Bayer’s proposed purchase of Monsanto after months of difficult negotiation is only one among other such industry consolidation deals. Dow Chemical and DuPont agreed last year to merge their crop science businesses, a deal currently under Justice Department review. Canadian fertilizer companies Potash Corp. and Agrium also agreed to merge this week. Finally, Swiss pesticide giant Syngenta AG agreed to a $43 billion takeover by China National Chemical Corp., a state-owned conglomerate that already sells generic agricultural chemicals. The bigger picture suggests severely reduced competition, higher prices for farmers and consumers, and increased global corporate control of crop seeds, particularly GMO’s. So what is going on here?

In the last three days, both The Globe & Mail and CBC News have published disturbing stories about the scale of the Chinese infiltration of the Vancouver housing market that go well beyond anything understood or encompassed by BC government or federal government action on the problem. The CBC reported that at least $13.5 Million in cash has been confiscated from Chinese recently entering Canada at Vancouver International Airport. The following story, reblogged from The Globe & Mail, tells a tale of fraud, manipulation, and tax evasion on a massive scale. It also tells an embarrassing tale of gross incompetence by Canadian authorities. All of this is consistent with other investigative journalists reports from the United States on other similar fraudulent Chinese real-estate activities. Some of these reports go back years. The original Mossack Fonseca “Panama Papers” revelations that indicated that many of the Chinese elite with family links to Li Xinping, and The People’s Liberation Army had Mossack Fonseca accounts should have been a red flag for Canada, but was not. We are living in an entirely new global economy manipulated by dark forces. What will we do now that Vancouver has been ruined for decades to come?

A mysterious Chinese company, Anbang Insurance Group has attracted the attention of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune Magazine, and government authorities in the United States and other countries. The cause of the scrutiny has been Anbang’s sudden involvement in a number of massive multi-billion dollar real estate investments around the World. Formed in 2004, Anbang apparently holds assets worth at least $295 Billion, but a months-long investigation by the New York Times has revealed an extremely opaque structure, empty offices, obscure shareholders, and extensive political connections to the Chinese elite. Analysis of Anbang and its operations holds a potential lesson for Canadian authorities fretting over foreign buyers and skyrocketing real-estate prices.

The following infographic provides an excellent overview of the World’s Most Innovative Countries and the weighted criteria used to rank the top 10. Glaringly, Canada is completely absent from this list. It is worth noting that eight of the ten countries listed have much smaller populations than Canada. That said, I have little essential disagreement with this list. Investment in research & development, leading to commercial technology innovation is crucial to a country’s economic growth and competitiveness in productivity. Canada lags in every category.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has quit an advisory panel to Panama’s government set up after the Panama Papers scandal. Some 11.5m documents, leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, revealed huge offshore tax evasion.The government appointed a panel to look at Panama’s financial practices. But Mr Stiglitz and and Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth, who also quit, said government interference in their work amounted to “censorship”. The seven-person panel also included Panamanian experts. “I thought the government was more committed, but obviously they’re not,” Mr Stiglitz told Reuters news agency. “It’s amazing how they tried to undermine us.”

This is pathetic. It is closing the barn door after the cows have fled. It is a wild west industry. The most bemusing example was the Asian agent in Vancouver who threatened retaliation from Tongs for interfering with her. If Li Jinping can’t control his own “fuerdai” then it must be done here.

I am sharing this because of its particular relevance to the ongoing revelations about connections between global tax evasion shell companies and real estate markets: London, Miami, New York City, San Francisco and Vancouver.

The release of the Panama Papers is of such potential significance and magnitude that it is difficult to know where to begin. I have decided that I will begin with the most interesting and relevant topic for me, the Canadian angle: possible links from Mossack Fonseca’s tax haven shell companies to the Vancouver BC real estate market, the current Canada Revenue Agency investigation of KPMG’s Canadian offshore tax haven scheme, and potential conflicts of interest within CRA. The KPMG and CRA issues have been extensively investigated and reported by CBC News, and also discussed on this site.