Nick Shaxson ■ Warning: tax havens getting ready to wriggle out of global transparency initiatives


The Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas, where some of its tax haven “clients” stay and play

We’ve written a lot about new international standards on transparency that are coming through: technically and politically, they are a vast improvement on a terrible situation – notably the commitment to automatic information exchange – but there’s much still to be desired.

One thing we’ve been watching for a while is tax havens paying lip service to joining in the international reforms, while looking for get-out clauses.

In this vein, here’s something from the Bahamas, which is quite open about its rejection of certain transparency standards.

“The Bahamas’ unique approach to the implementation of the [OECD] Standard in the best interests of the jurisdiction and the clients we serve. Of utmost importance to The Bahamas is that the receiving country is an “appropriate” country for the receipt of such information, including that such country has in place the safeguards necessary to ensure the confidentiality, safety and proper use of the information exchanged.”

In other words, we’ll summarise:

“we’re going to pretend to implement the international standard, but we are going to decide unilaterally which countries we’ll exchange with. We and our “clients” in those countries will continue to profit from those poor countries that are most vulnerable to our tax haven industry, as we harbour and handle their venal élites’ looted assets, safe in the knowledge that these looted assets can be excluded from transparency and accountability . . .  because of all the venality that we’re helping to facilitate and perpetuate!”

It takes quite some chutzpah to make an argument like that. (And before you start thinking that Bahamas still has a point about “safeguards” – consider all this.)

This Bahamian position is an outrage. This is as clear an example of a tax haven thumbing its nose at the international community (and at its close neighbours) as you could wish to find.

The international community needs to wheel out sanctions for countries like Bahamas that don’t comply with the accepted standards of civilised society. At the very least, countries that are victims of these criminalised activities should take matters into their own hands, as Colombia has done with Panama.



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