An attempt to uncover the dirty secrets of offshore banking.
Under the aegis of secrecy, the profits of some of the world’s most prominent corporations currently mingle with the dirty money of gangsters, despots and terrorists. Largely indifferent to the origin of this capital, most low-tax jurisdictions are instead keenly interested in getting a “cut of the action.” Shaxson’s (Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil, 2008) story of offshore banking is nothing short of Shakespearean, a drama full of secrecy, treachery and corruption in which wealthy countries, companies and individuals collude to horde wealth in a complex global network of largely unregulated tax havens. To realize this end, they install corrupt leaders, exploit indigenous populations and, ultimately, deny both developed and developing nations of vital tax dollars. There is much here that should generate outrage. While the author does an admirable job of both arguing the consequences of offshore banking and providing a succinct history of the practice, his tone and style often work against his intentions. Overt declarations of outrage and heavy-handed moralizing suggest that readers may not be up to inferring the “right” conclusions on their own. Shaxson also too easily reduces the players in the drama to simple victims and villains. There is little nuance to his presentation, a fact underscored by his reluctance or refusal to acknowledge a position counter to his own—as tenuous as such a position may be.
A potentially compelling look at a pernicious financial practice ultimately undone by the author’s tendency to condescend.