Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World by Nicholas Shaxson
|Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World by Nicholas Shaxson|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Peter Magee|
|Summary: A hard-hitting look at tax havens, what effect they have and exactly who should be interested in them. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: January 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
Most people think about the subject of tax havens - if they need to think about them at all - as something which is unlikely ever to concern them and that they're for the super-rich and celebrities. What might surprise them is that more than half of world trade as well as most international lending is routed through them and that many common items in your everyday shopping will come to you via a tax haven. And we really should be thinking about them because tax havens are ensuring that wealth in unprecedented amounts is being transferred from the poor to the rich - greatly exceeding the aid which flows in the opposite direction.
Does this all sound rather dry? Well, parts of the book are going to stretch your understanding but for the most part it's extremely well-written and directed at the layman rather than the professional. There are plenty of anecdotes which bring the situations to life and I found no difficulty in reading the book over a couple of days. In fairness I'm not completely a layman having until recently worked in HMRC - but the book is written in a user-friendly form and it's such a compelling read that it's bound to improve your understanding of how finance is being manipulated.
Did I enjoy it? Well - that's another matter. It's deeply unsettling to read about how a simple rerouting of finance through an off-shore subsidiary can circumvent monopoly laws in India and thereby artificially inflate prices. Then there's the simple device by which wealth flows from the poorest African nations, some of whom have extensive mineral deposits, with little or no benefit to the people of the country. I had hoped that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development would have had some teeth in these matters - but it seems largely ineffective. It began well, but its powers have been watered down over time by vested interests.
Closer to home, there are names you'll recognise. There's a fascinating chapter on the Vestey family and how they protected their wealth by use of a simple but effective off-shore trust but that family was not on it's own. International companies and corporations were not slow to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by such exotic destinations as the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands and - closer to home - Jersey. You might recall world leaders recently declared war on tax havens and Bank secrecy though this has proved largely ineffective.
It's an important subject and very much a live topic. It will take you a few hours to read the book but it will be a worthwhile investment of time. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to Bookbag.
If the subject interests you then we can also recommend Richi$tan: A Journey Through the 21st Century Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich by Robert Frank and The New Rulers Of The World by John Pilger.
You can read more book reviews or buy Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World by Nicholas Shaxson at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World by Nicholas Shaxson at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.