In June 2013, two Swiss lawyers held a private telephone chat. They were annoyed. In London, David Cameron had just given a speech. The prime minister had promised to sweep away decades of offshore “tax secrecy” by introducing a central register. Anybody who owned an offshore company would have to declare it to the authorities. The G8 summit, to be hosted by Cameron on the shores of Lough Erne, in Northern Ireland, was looming. Top of the agenda: how to stop aggressive tax avoidance. For much of the 20th century hiding your money was simple. You got a lawyer, filled in a form and set up a Swiss bank account or offshore “shell company”. Nobody asked questions. For a couple of thousand dollars a year, it was possible to hide away profits where governments could never find them. But in the UK crown dependencies and overseas territories where financial services were the main source of jobs and income times were changing. In tropical tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands a chill wind – or at least the threat of one – was blowing. One of the Swiss lawyers was Sandro Hangartner, the Zurich boss of the Panamanian law… Read full this story
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