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The story of offshore finance is a familiar one. Individuals or companies want to avoid taxes, fines, lawsuits, or investigations, so they move their wealth to the Cook Islands, or register some part of their business in Switzerland. The millionaire can still live and spend in America, the business can sell Brazilian beef to China, but their cash takes a few detours through tax havens. As the author Nicholas Shaxson puts it, “You take your money elsewhere, to another country, in order to escape the rules and laws of the society in which you operate.”
One aspect of Shaxson’s 2011 book Treasure Islands is especially disturbing, not least for Catholics at the present moment. Shaxson has a skill for finding offshore’s outsiders and telling their stories. They describe a world that, quietly but forcefully, defends wrongdoers. An unnamed “former hedge fund administrator” in the Cayman Islands found that, when he raised concerns about crooked accounting, he began to be shut out of important conversations. It’s typical of the system, he says. No threats are made explicitly, no anger is shown; but those who don’t fit in will be excluded—or given huge amounts of work, or subtly reminded that “If you speak in one place, the network works in a way that you will never get work again.” The ex-banker Beth Krall tells Shaxson that not only do the bank chiefs all know each other, they also know the police and the regulators. A lawyer in Jersey, who spoke up about the corruption he saw at first hand, says bluntly: “I have all the qualifications, and I couldn’t get a job in a law firm to make tea now.”
Iron - Fist - Velvet - William - Taylor
The iron fist is covered by luxurious velvet. William Taylor, an Anglican clergyman and a councillor in the City of London, was invited...
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