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Caribbean Hideaways Promote Financial Safe Havens But Arouse Suspicions

Tax-news.com

12 October 1999


East Caribbean islands such as Antigua, Nevis and Anguilla are aggressively promoting themselves as financial safe havens in a bid to expand their offshore financial business. The incentives offered by these small islands include an emphasis on reduced disclosure, 24 hour incorporation, the absence of tax treaties and exchange agreements, and even citizenship for offshore investors.

While such claims are attracting curious investors, they have also caught the attention of US, UK, and international law enforcement agencies. A senior US official recently described small countries such as Dominica and Granada as ‘one-stop shopping’ havens for international criminals.

Much of the investment flowing to the East Caribbean is coming from traditional safe havens such as Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein who have bowed to international pressure for greater disclosure. Law enforcement agencies believe that as a result of this increased disclosure many organized crime syndicates are looking to relocate to more discreet, less scrutinized locations.

While the exact amount of money in offshore havens is unknown, it could be up to $8 trillion according to experts. About one third of this money is thought to be spread amongst the 17 Caribbean offshore centres, and while much of this money has perfectly legitimate origins, an unknown proportion was originally derived from criminal activities such as drugs, weapons and white collar fraud.

East Caribbean nations have hit back at the statements coming from larger nations and the multinational agencies, saying that European style tax haven regulations would place them at a competitive disadvantage, and that Britain and the United States are hypocrites because of their own offshore centres and interests.

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