British Offshore Havens Are the Jewels of the British Empire

Following Jacques Attali’s weekly L’Express column titled “When Can We Expect the London Papers?”, on April 17 Le Monde also went gunning for the City of London in a full-page story titled “Offshore Havens, the Jewels of the British Empire.”

Led off with the kicker,

“Throughout history, the City of London, formerly the capital of the largest empire ever known, became one of the most active centers of the international offshore financial system,”

this article goes in detail to explain that the City is the result of “feudal” and “imperial” legacies. The whole picture is completed by close-ups of the British Overseas Territories serving as tax havens; territories under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom — Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Gibraltar, Anguilla and Montserrat islands. And, some of the Crown Dependencies which belong directly to the British Crown, are not part of the United Kingdom, or the EU; such as The Isle of Man, and The Channel Islands (Guernsey & Jersey).

The page is spiced up with detailed information: How “since the Middle Ages,” the City has had a specific status obtained from King John Lackland, granting it autonomy and a favorable tax law; how the ideal tools for tax evasion, the “trusts,” go back to “the times of the Crusades,” when those leaving for the Orient entrusted their wealth to a “trusted” third-party manager; and how under the Empire, the British or foreign companies based in Britain were given “non-resident” fiscal status, which granted the leaders of companies based outside of Britain an exemption from taxes.

“Today, the confetti of the British Empire represents two-thirds of the world’s currently active tax havens. Following the fall of the Empire, the metropolis proposed to its former overseas territories a voluntary association. Some became Overseas British territories; others are members of the Commonwealth; others, newly independent states. So each maintains a close link to the old Metropolis. London thus has the means, if it wishes, to use some leverage to fight against fiscal fraud. Yet, of the 30 countries on the list of non-cooperative fiscal entities, 23 have a close link to London.”
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