My Big Fat Belizean, Singaporean Bank Account (Why do people invest offshore?)

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By Adam Davidson (© NYTimes)

Earlier this month, I decided to see how hard it would be to set up my own offshore bank account. I figured it would be pretty difficult, because I’m not rich and don’t have a team of tax lawyers to oversee my money and because the E.U. and U.S. governments have been cracking down on tax havens by imposing stricter tax-sharing requirements. So I proceeded with some caution…

Setting up the company was a lot cheaper than I expected. A&P charged $900 for a basic Belizean incorporation and another $85 for a corporate seal to emboss legal documents. For $650 more, A&P offered to open a bank account to stash my fledgling operation’s money in Singapore — a country, the Web site also noted, that “cannot gather information on foreigners’ bank accounts, bank-deposit interest and investment gains under domestic tax law.” And for another $690, it offered to assign a “nominee” who would be listed as the official manager and owner of my business but would report to me under a secret power-of-attorney contract. Then an A&P associate asked me to fill out the incorporation information online, just so she wouldn’t type in anything incorrectly. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.

Amazingly neither A&P nor I broke any law in Canada, Belize, Singapore or the United States. The company required, in compliance with international legal standards, that I e-mail it a notarized copy of my passport, driver’s license and some other identity documents. But a company representative also reassured me that these would not be visible to any tax authority. Just before they processed the paperwork, I explained that I was a journalist working on an article about offshore tax havens, and I haven’t heard from them since. (A representative from A&P declined to comment for this article, but he did note in an e-mail that the company was still “happy to serve [me] as a client.”)

Detailed report at NYTimes: click here