The Panama Papers leak might just be the ideal news story for John Oliver. Not only does it have wide-reaching global implications, but most Americans don’t really seem to know what all the fuss is about.
That’s where the Last Week Tonight host came in Sunday night to help. He began with the country of Panama itself, “a country you think about so little” that the graphic over his right shoulder was actually the outline of a Scottish Terrier. But Oliver wanted his viewers to know that the revelations about global leaders’ offshore accounts are indeed “absolutely huge.”
“Given the sheer volume of information here, this story is going to take months to unfold,” Oliver said. “But, it’s already inflicting casualties.” Most prominently, it led to the swift resignation of Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. “Holy shit, that is like watching a slow-motion car crash,” the host said after watching the PM confront the allegations on live television.
Ultimately, Gunnlaugsson was replaced by Iceland’s fisheries minister, “because it seems in Iceland, the line of succession goes prime minister, the guy in charge of the fish, the secretary of licorice-flavored schnapps, a litany of elves that live in assorted boulders, and finally anyone in a warm sweater who’s feeling political,” Oliver said. “And if you're thinking, 'C'mon, how could he forget Bjork?' I didn't. She was one of the elves. Pay attention, pay attention.”
From there, Oliver moved on to one his favorite targets, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who was also fingered in the leaks, but has since insisted that “I own no shares” in the offshore company created by his father.
“Now, if the present tense there seems a little bit suspicious it may be because it later turned out he had owned shares, he just sold them,” Oliver said. “It’s a bit like A-Rod saying he has no steroids in his body. Sure, that’s true now, but it wasn't always the case, was it? And that’s kind of the point.”
And while Russia’s Vladimir Putin was not directly implicated in the leaks, it appears that he has been using a famous cellist to help stash his enormous personal fortune. “I always thought the only way to make millions with a cello is to use it to dig for gold,” Oliver remarked.
Finally, Oliver pointed out that the law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal has not yet been charged with any crimes. “But it is hard to believe they didn’t see any warning signs,” he said when they incorporated companies with James Bond-inspired names like Goldfinger, GoldenEye, and Spectre. “I can’t think of anything more inherently suspicious than that other than perhaps the phrase, ‘Vladimir Putin’s multi-millionaire cellist friend.’”