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From Financial Integrity

Treasure islands: Tax havens and the men who stole the world

Corporate corruption and unchecked greed, plus a climate of deregulation, set the stage for the current economic crisis. A keystone of this shadowy environment, according to author Nicholas Shaxon, is the worldwide system of tax havens, as outlined in Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World. Far from something only of interest to the wealthy, offshore banking should be of concern to every citizen of both developed and developing countries. Only by understanding the underpinnings of the current crisis can ordinary citizens begin to effectively demand real, lasting change toward sustainable financial markets.

“This is the ugliest chapter in global economic affairs since slavery -- and secretive offshore tax havens are at the heart of the trouble.

“Dirty money, tax havens and the offshore system describe the ugliest and most secretive chapter in the history of global economic affairs. The World Bank has reported that the flow of dirty money across borders, out of developing countries and into rich ones, is up to ten times the amount of foreign aid that flows the other way.

“Most people regard tax havens as being relevant only to celebrities, crooks and spivs, and mistakenly believe that the main offshore problems are money laundering and terrorist financing. These are only small parts of the whole picture.

“The offshore system has been (discreetly) responsible for the greatest ever shift of wealth from poor to rich. It also undermines our democracies by offering the wealthiest members of society escape routes from tax, financial regulation and other normal democratic controls.

“The anti-globalisation movement tapped into an uneasiness, felt by millions, that something was rotten in the world economy. Treasure Islands brilliantly articulates the problem in a completely new way, and exposes the deep corruption that impacts on our daily lives.

“NICHOLAS SHAXSON is the author of Poisoned Wells, the Dirty Politics of African Oil, an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and an experienced journalist writing regularly for The Financial Times and The Economist.

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