Sunday, January 9, 2011

The truth about tax havens

The truth about tax havens: part 2 | Business | The Guardian:
In the Caribbean, the modern offshore system traces its origins back to the time when organised crime took an interest in the US tax code.

When Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion in 1931, his associate Meyer Lansky became fascinated with developing schemes to get mob money out of the US in order to bring it back, drycleaned. A slick mafia operator, Lansky would beat every criminal charge against him until the day he died in 1983. Lansky began with Swiss banking in 1932, where he perfected the loan-back technique.

First he moved money out of the US in suitcases, diamonds, airline tickets, cashiers' cheques, untraceable bearer shares or whatever. He would put the money in secret Swiss accounts, perhaps via a Liechtenstein Anstalt (an anonymous company with a single secret shareholder) for extra secrecy. The Swiss bank would then loan the money back to a mobster in the United States and the money would return home, clean.

By 1937 Lansky had started casino operations in Cuba, outside the reach of the US tax authorities, and he and his friends built up gambling, racetrack and drugs businesses there. It was, effectively, an offshore money-laundering centre for the mob.

Lansky then moved to Miami and plotted to find his next Cuba, small enough and corrupt enough to be able to buy the political leadership, and close enough to the United States for the gamblers to come and go at will.