The mechanisms of secrecy
Secrecy comes in various different 'flavours.' Probably the most well known version is plain vanilla banking secrecy, such as Switzerland offers. But there are various other ways to achieve secrecy. Trusts are in a sense the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of banking secrecy - and they can provide equally strong but more devious ways to hide assets and income. Other vehicles such as foundations and Anstalt (establishment) provide similarly strong secrecy mechanisms. Offshore companies and other corporate vehicles, with the real owners hidden behind 'nominees' (or fronts) are another way to achieve the same ends. Jurisdictions can provide further levels of secrecy, either by refusing outright to co-operate with other jurisdictions seeking information, or by refusing to collect the data that would enable them to co-operate.
Various studies help provide some illustrations.
- April 4, 2013 - Tax havens explained: How the rich hide money. A great interactive tool, from CBC Canada.
- Jan 14, 2013 - Secret structures, hidden crimes: Urgent steps to address hidden ownership, money laundering and tax evasion from developing countries - New Eurodad report. Original here.
- Nov 26, 2012 - The offshore trick: how BVI 'nominee director' system works. Part of a wider investigation by the Guardian, BBC Panorama and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
- Oct 29, 2012 - List of killer loopholes in the Swiss "Rubik" agreements
- July 23, 2012 - TaxAnalysts: How Hedge Funds, Private Equity Funds and others are "essentially immune to audit by the IRS".
- June 2012 - Want to hide your money? It's all too easy. Tax Justice podcast. Originals here.
- June 2012 - Global Witness' Idiot's Guide to Money Laundering, accompanying its report Grave Secrecy. Originals here and here.
- May 30, 2012 - Exposing the hocus pocus of trusts. See also in trusts we trust.
- March 2012 - The 15 Key Financial Secrecy Indicators, from the Tax Justice Network's Financial Secrecy Index.
- Nov 18, 2011 - Panel discussion on shell corporations and beneficial ownership, led by Anthea Lawson of Global Witness
- Oct 2011 - World Bank's report The Puppet Masters looks in depth at the corporate and financial structures that form the building blocks of hidden money trails, with case studies.
- Oct 2011 - The UK-Swiss deal. This looks at an agreement signed between the UK and Switzerland, and explores the loopholes that allow it to be circumvented. and the structures and schemes that can be used. Original here; see Section 3 for detailed descriptions of typical loopholes.
- Various 2011 - Shell Games. This Reuters series of articles looks in particular at secrecy facilities provided by U.S. companies. This series includes:
- Dec - several new ones related to the use of shell companies in Medicare frauds, here.
- Sept - Nevada's Big Bet on Secrecy. How consultants, some with shady pasts, are selling Nevada corporate shells as secrecy vehicles
- Aug 15 - The bonds that turned to dust. Reuters follows a paper trail from London to Cayman to Nevada to Fiji to a trailer park in Phoenix, Arizona. Original here.
- Aug 1 - China's Shortcut to Wall Street -looking at a series of often fraudulent reverse listings of Chinese companies via shady U.S. corporate vehicles.
- Jun 28 - Little House of Secrets on the Great Plains - a look at activities run out of a single house in Cheyenne, Wyoming
- July 2009 - In Trusts we Trust. This long article explains trusts from first principles, and explores how offshore trusts can be used to provide secrecy.