tourists and the crown prince of thieves
You can hardly travel the world
these days without stumbling on a tax haven.
Whether your preference is affluent Europe or
third-world exotica, a mountain paradise or
a Pacific island, you can find a tax haven to
suit your needs.
Alongside the touts at train stations and airports
who want to drag you off to their pensione or
their taxi will be a greasy man with a "letterbox"
and an offer too good to refuse. He's selling
tax evasion - though he might call it by a sweeter
You don't even need to leave home to find your
tax haven. It comes to you. Tax havens are advertised
in magazines and newspapers. It is part of the
democratisation of tax avoidance (the legal
kind) and evasion (the illegal kind). It's not
just sport for the mega-wealthy. Even the moderately
rich can play the game.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development lists 38 countries that are tax
havens, and that's not even including Switzerland,
Austria or Luxembourg, for heaven's sake, although
their bank secrecy laws are pretty dependable.
If you don't fancy a bank in the Cayman Islands,
Jersey or the Isle of Man, there are plenty
closer to home - Vanuatu, for example - that
offer depositors anonymity and banking secrecy.
A cluster of Pacific micro-states has leapt
on board. Why sell bird droppings or sullenly
watch your island sink into the ocean when you
can make some money robbing other countries
And now, thanks to the billionaire Westfield
shopping mall boss, Frank Lowy, we all know
about one of the prettiest tax havens of them
all - Liechtenstein. Lowy has been caught up
in a lot of bad publicity over his affairs in
that teeny weeny and oh-so-rich principality
since a disgruntled employee of its biggest
bank, LGT, sold a list of alleged tax evaders
to the German secret service.
According to documents cited in a continuing
US Senate inquiry, the Lowy family once maintained
a series of Liechtenstein-based foundations
that in 2001 held $70 million in assets. Lowy
says it is above board and no member of his
family benefited; and we'll probably have to
wait till eternity to get to the bottom of it.
Liechtenstein is not on every traveller's itinerary,
but it is the supreme destination for tax tourists.
The OECD classes it as one of the world's three
"unco-operative" tax havens, absolutely
steadfast and zealous in its passion for banking
secrecy. The other recalcitrants are Andorra
These hold-outs have resisted the modest moves
to improve transparency to which even zealots
in the tax-evasion fraternity, such as Bermuda
and the US Virgin Islands, have acceded in recent