Offshore Tax Havens

Offshore tax havens

Map of tax haven hot spots

The gutsy Senate investigation into offshore tax havens has produced explosive material. Too bad there wasn’t more of an explosion in the big media outlets. On August 1, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released its 370-page report with an equally thick stack of primary documents, in conjunction with a five-hour hearing and often dramatic testimony recorded by four or five television cameras. CNN chose that day to spend its air time on Fidel’s “ceding power,” running repetitive footage of sweaty Miamians honking their automobile horns and saying deleterious things about Castro.

Wonder which network offshores its assets in the Caymans.

Cayman Islands beach

Because someone has to do so, this blog recaps some of the pertinent numbers (page numbers in parentheses):

  • The Subcommittee report begins, “Offshore tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions today harbor trillions of dollars in assets.” (1)
  • “Experts estimate that Americans now have more than $1 trillion in assets offshore and illegally evade between $40 and $70 billion in U.S. taxes each year through the use of offshore tax schemes.” (1)
  • “In 2000, Enron Corporation established over 441 offshore entities in the Cayman Islands.” (2)
  • “A 2004 report found that U.S. multinational corporations are increasingly attributing their profits to offshore jurisdictions, allocating $150 billion in 2002 profits to 18 offshore jurisdictions, for example, up from $88 billion just three years earlier.” (2)
  • “The British Virgin Islands is a group of islands in the Caribbean and an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. It has licensed 11 banks, 90 trust companies, and 90 registered agents. The British Virgin Islands has over 500,000 registered offshore corporations, apparently the most of any offshore jurisdiction.” (15)
  • “The Isle of Man . . . is home to 171 offshore service providers, including banks, trust companies, and company formation agents. Together these firms managed about $57 billion in bank deposits, $12 billion in collective investment schemes, $33 billion in life insurance funds, and $11 billion in non-life insurance funds.” (15)
  • “In early 1990, John Staddon, Chris Donegan, and Rajan Puri moved from UBS to European American Investment Group (“Euram”). Euram is a financial services provider with offices in six cities, including New York, London, and Vienna. It was founded in 1999 by professionals from UBS, Deutsche Bank, and McKinsey. Euram employs ninety full-time staff working in areas including securities brokerage, investment advising, and wealth management.” (61)
  • “The paper portfolio was “created” by having two Isle of Man companies with no apparent assets exchange contracts with each other. Under these contracts, Jackstones, which owned no stock, would “sell” stock to Barnville in exchange for cash that Barnville did not have, and Barnville would “loan” the stock, which it had not received, back to Jackstones in exchange for the payment of cash collateral, which Jackstones did not have. Because these transactions were undertaken simultaneously, the two obligations to pay each other equal amounts of cash and stock would be offset. No stock ever changed hands, and no money ever changed hands.” (63)
  • ‘The records show that Barnville was incorporated . . . with one share of stock each subscribed to by Paul Moore on behalf of Claycroft Limited and Paul Moore on behalf of Dalecroft Limited. Annual returns . . . show that . . . its authorized capital was 2,000 British pounds (of which 2 pounds had been paid in).” (69)
  • “As of September 24, 2001, HSBC estimated that its total fees on the transaction would be $8,890,000.” (104)
  • “Quellos’ total compensation for the Saban POINT trade was $53,909,930 . . .” (112)
  • “The following case history shows how, over a thirteen-year period from 1992 to 2005, two U.S. citizens, Sam and Charles Wyly, guided by an armada of attorneys, brokers, and other professionals, transferred at least $190 million in stock options and warrants to a complex array of 58 offshore trusts and shell corporations.” (113)
  • “Section six shows how about $85 million in untaxed dollars were used to acquire U.S. real estate and build houses for use by Wyly family members. It also shows how untaxed dollars were used to finance real estate loans that supplied millions of offshore dollars to Wyly family members for their personal use in the United States.” (118)
  • “In provisions that became effective in 2002, the Patriot Act explicitly required U.S. banks and securities firms that open a private account with at least $1 million for a non-U.S. person to “ascertain the identity of the nominal and beneficial owners” of the accounts.” (118)

An eye-opener, all around, and a window onto the cowardly maneuvers employed by people who don’t need the money in the first place to deny tax dollars that pay for–among other things–federal courts, where their high-priced legal help can argue before judges that they shouldn’t have to pay those taxes.

Cayman courts find hedge funds

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