x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Book Review: In search of fortunes

The title of Nicholas Shaxson's book suggests an island-hopping travelogue that pauses only at those far-flung places where the population is low and income tax is, well, non-existent.

The title of Nicholas Shaxson's book suggests an island-hopping travelogue that pauses only at those far-flung places where the population is low and income tax is, well, non-existent.

Shaxson, a regular contributor to the Financial Times and a researcher for the Tax Justice Network, does deliver on this promise. He makes stops in such traditional tax havens as the Cayman Islands and Gibraltar, while highlighting the anomaly of the Marshall Islands being a shipping registration hub and the flag of convenience under which the Deepwater Horizon BP oil rig set sail to environmental disaster. The Marshalls, a cluster of tiny Pacific atolls where the US conducted nuclear tests in the post-war period, have a "light regulatory touch" for ocean-going vessels.

But it transpires that the smart money has moved on. Offshore banking is no longer about putting all your eggs in a single, distant basket. It is instead about manipulating money so artfully, across so many borders, that it becomes impossible to follow the trail. Getting away with it has never looked so easy, or so much in need of scrutiny.