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Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens
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Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  841 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
A thrilling ride inside the world of tax havens and corporate masterminds

While the United States experiences recession and economic stagnation and European countries face bankruptcy, experts struggle to make sense of the crisis. Nicholas Shaxson, a former correspondent for the Financial Times and The Economist, argues that tax havens are a central cause of all these disast
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 6th 2011)
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Andri I can now answer my own question - educate yourself by reading articles at and do your bit with the Tax Justice Network.

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Zach Cohen
Apr 23, 2011 Zach Cohen rated it it was amazing
Before I get into my review, I wanted to point out that for someone without a lot of financial knowledge, this could be a very difficult book to read. I have a college degree in accounting, did some graduate work in tax, and worked for one of the big four accounting firms for a year in their international tax consulting department. I quit working for them and left the field entirely after I realized in vague generalities what they were doing, which was one of the reasons I was so interested in t ...more
Apr 28, 2011 Nathan rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, business
Sometimes fascinating insight into the history of tax shelters, ruined in my eyes by the author's style which that of an incensed early 1980s Greenpeace leaflet writer. By the nature of tax shelters, you're going to have multinational corporations as villains so, unless you *want* to come off sounding like a stereotyped leftie loon, you had better get that tone and voice just right. Shaxson has not.

My favourite story was that of the wealthy British Vestey family with Argentinian meat interests.
Feb 02, 2014 Heikki rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book (actually its Finnish translation) at a book fair, because it seemed to handle tax evasion and planning, as well as tax havens and offshoring, which have been of interest to me for a while.

It did. I had three questions I hoped it would answer: what are tax havens, what is the effect of offshoring, and how can we start to rectify the appalling financial problems in the world. I am also happy to report this book does indeed answer all three.

Having read some other books on pos
Tax heavens, the missing piece of every book that has dealt with the 2008 financial crash, or least those that i have read so far. It gives a clear answers why a poor countries remain poor and it makes the current European bail out sums seems like a pocket money when compared to trillions of dollars/euros that have gone through the tax heavens and disappeared to somewhere in pockets of the plutocrats and their like.

Easy to read and understand even to a simpleton like me, Shaxson writing is good
Margaret Sankey
Nov 25, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it
Thoroughly depressing study of 70 years of financial chicanery and evolution of tax havens and money laundering, with highlight that include the City of London and its outposts in Gibraltar and Jersey, Omar Bongo of Gabon and the French neo-colonial Elf scandal, active anti-tax lobby groups and their PR, celebrities who campaign for anti-poverty measures and hide their income in the Netherlands, ineffective PATRIOT Act provisions and terrorism financing, the Caymans and the Bahamas, seedy ads in ...more
Anastasia Alén
Aug 30, 2015 Anastasia Alén rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 5-stars
Loistava tietopaketti veroparatiiseista ja offshoringista!
Hidas lukea ehkä sanaston ja teeman takia mutta tosi mielenkiintoinen, suosittelen lämpimästi!
The truest sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic that could ever be written. Why trouble yourself about a little buried treasure on one little island with only a few corpses on a dead man's treasure chest when the capital outflows of entire countries or industries can be redirected?

This is an easy to read introduction to tax havens and the offshore system. It's disturbing in that you can see why Africa will remain poor and why we will remain at risk of financial shocks like the collapse of
Jul 04, 2012 Martina rated it it was amazing
Devastating book.

*insert bad joke about likely substance abuse following the completion of the book*
Jun 23, 2017 Liam rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, economics
Treasure Islands is an investigation into the world that many of us have heard of but who few of us have had direct interaction: so-called "tax havens". Shaxton has done a lot of travelling to these places and explains to us how they have become a fixture of the international marketplace. He puts an emphasis on how diverted profits have damaged third world countries:

I had spent years watching, living in and writing about the countries along the curve of Atlantic coastline ranging from Nigeria in
Darran Mclaughlin
Absolutely essential reading if you want to understand the way the world works today, and why capitalism and liberal democracy is falling apart. I decided to read this after the Panama banking scandal broke, having been aware of the book for a few years. It is the clearest explanation of the sickness and corruption at the heart of contemporary capitalism, and Britain, especially the City of London, is the main culprit. Western Governments and the press talk about the ineradicable corruption in t ...more
Colin Heber-Percy
If capitalism used to be a force for good in the world, drawing communities and nations closer together through trade and mutual cooperation, it certainly, demonstrably isn't any longer. This book opens a window on the current reality: greed, corporate irresponsibility, and criminality. Shaxson's primary target is offshore finance which he describes as a sort of metastasing cancer in the body of global finance. He argues that the City of London sits at the heart of an offshore empire; the Britis ...more
Ahmed Mohsen
فكرة الكتاب جيده جدا ....
يتحدث المؤلف عن احد اهم الأفكار الاقتصادية التى تحكم النظام الاقتصادي العالمي ، و هي فكرة الأوف شور Off shore و هي الطريقة التى من خلالها تتجنب الشركات متعددة الجنسيات دفع الضرائب من خلال طرق و آليات معروفة .
الكتاب ملئ بالأرقام و الحكايات الصحفية الصادمة ، و التى تبعث على الدهشة الطويلة ...كيف يكسب أغنياء العالم كل هذه الاموال دون اي ضرائب أو التزامات حقيقية عليهم تجاه المجتمع ....لكن لأن المؤلف صحفي ...فإن الكتاب يعيبه التطويل المبالغ فيه ، و الكثير من الحكايات الصحفية
Stevan Cirkovic
Dec 23, 2015 Stevan Cirkovic rated it it was amazing
Truly the most important book I've read in the past year. It illustrates in detail and beyond doubt the workings of the off-shore world, carving out lesser known features too. In not leaving it up to readers to dig out the details of those mechanisms, Shaxton goes beyond a political pamphlet and clearly sets out how tax havens erode democracy and perpetuate poverty. Treasure Islands teaches a lot about institutions and the human factor in the equation. I certainly learned a lot reading this grea ...more
Chang-ryung Han
Aug 20, 2012 Chang-ryung Han rated it did not like it
This book is quite boring. It does not give a great insight on tax havens. The author links almost all financial scandals that he has known to tax havens. He repeats the same thing (i.e., secrecy) from the first page to the end. Some articles published in academic journals are better than the book in understanding the mechanism of tax havens.
Jun 09, 2011 Michael rated it it was amazing
An outstanding, and very readable, analysis of how corporate finance has grown so powerful that it can basically do what it likes. And we how we all suffer the consequences! The section on the City of London Corporation is particularly eye-opening!
Andrew Davis
Nov 28, 2016 Andrew Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
A well written account of Tax havens and how the impact on the world’s economy. A lot of interesting facts and references. With discussion of the historical background on the tax evasion it helps to understand the current situation. Well recommended.
Some of the notes follow:
More than half of world trade passes, at least on paper, through tax havens. Over half of all banking assets and third of foreign direct investment by multinationals are routed offshore.
The world contains about 60 secrecy jur
Steven Kaminski
May 12, 2017 Steven Kaminski rated it it was amazing
Complicated and fascinating. This book gets into something that unless you follow business for a long time most people don't pay attention to: Offshore tax havens.
A few years ago a French economist named Thomas Piketty wrote a book where he showed evidence for and advocated for a global tax. That book scared the shit out of a lot of powerful people. His argument was that companies and billionaires now have so much money that unless there is a global tax and complete financial transparency they c
Brad Belschner
Mar 11, 2011 Brad Belschner rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
This book is about the nefarious world of tax havens. It affects YOU. If you want to understand the secret machine behind modern politics, read this book. My eyes are opened.

I confess, I'm somewhat sympathetic to legal tax avoidance. I believe taxes should be much lower, and I use strategies to lower the taxes I owe. But even I can't admire this system. We need to call the banking system today exactly what it is: evil. Bad things go on secretly in the dark...and tax havens are all in the dark.
Annie Smidt
May 19, 2017 Annie Smidt rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
Here are some things you didn't want to know about how the world works!

Fascinating though. Depressing. Frustrating.

It's not just some naughty old aristocratic white guys and some dodgy corporations hiding some tax dollars, it's a huge, complex, worldwide system of sanctioned corruption that keeps the rich rich, the poor poor and the bankers busy.

On the one hand, this is a dry-ish book about global tax practices and economics. On the other hand, it's essential reading for anyone who really want
May 23, 2017 Donn rated it it was amazing
Not quite the "easy reading" that I had anticipated, and a little dated (published ~2011), but the first book on this topic that I've read. Five stars for making me start to think differently about this world, and the amount of investigative journalism work that must have gone into the book.

There are many worlds invisible to the layperson, some very insidious; and offshore finance, or should I say "offshore" finance, is one of them.
Inger-Johanne Bauer
May 31, 2017 Inger-Johanne Bauer rated it liked it
I knew most of this before (not in detail, but the general lines) and found the book lengthy and convoluted. The conclusion at the end was ok, though. I used the book mainly to practice speed-reading. I would have preferred to read a condensed version, like a feature article.
May 24, 2017 Allan rated it it was amazing
I gave it five stars because of the effort this writer must have gone through to complete this very informative although depressing book. I never read it all as I was getting to disgusted with many of the upper echelon of our society.
Trish McLellan
Jun 10, 2017 Trish McLellan rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, audio
Well worth reading or listening to.
Jun 09, 2017 Jen rated it it was amazing
Really came through in the end. This is a pretty devastating accounting of why there is a 1%.
Jul 17, 2017 dimwig rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 12, 2017 Phil rated it really liked it
Pairs nicely with Capitalism's Achilles Hell in describing the grim reality of international finance.
Daniel Simmons
Mar 09, 2017 Daniel Simmons rated it really liked it
Who knew that a book about tax avoidance could be so damn enthralling (and rage-inducing)? This informative and deliciously opinionated survey of "the offshore world" was the perfect intro for laymen like me who might otherwise snooze through a more technical treatise. (Nota bene: This is not the Robert Louis Stevenson novel you were looking for.)
Jo Murphy
Jan 31, 2013 Jo Murphy rated it it was amazing
The book's premise is that to understand how there has been a significant transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1% we need to study the central role played by tax havens. The author, Nicholas Shaxson, defines a tax haven as a 'place that seeks to attract business by offering politically stable facilities to help people or entities get around the rules, laws and regulations of jurisdictions elsewhere.'
Through the avoidance of tax wealthy individuals and multinationals have abrogated their respon
Mar 02, 2017 Marina rated it it was amazing
One of the very few books I will read a second time right after finishing.
Tom Hunter
Aug 04, 2013 Tom Hunter rated it it was amazing
This is an important and profound book that exposes what is really going on around the world. Rich elites with utterly depraved lack of morality are cheating, lying and thieving against the rest of the world's population in places such as that vile cesspool of depravity the Isle of Jersey, in the Cayman Islands--a vile place that has enabled criminality of the worst sort, of foolish places like the state of Delaware that allowed themselves to enable the destruction of their fellow Americans thro ...more
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Shaxson was born in Malawi and has lived at various times in India, Brazil, England, Lesotho, Spain, Angola, South Africa, Germany and the Netherlands. Since 1993 he has written on global business and politics for the Financial Times, Reuters, the Economist and its sister publication the Economist Intelligence Unit, International Affairs, Foreign Affairs, American Interest, the BBC, Africa Confide ...more
More about Nicholas Shaxson...

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“One is that the offshore system is perhaps the strongest determinant of how political and economic power works in this world. It helps rich people, companies and countries stay on top, for no good economic or political reason. It’s the battleground of the rich versus the poor, you versus the corporations, the havens against the democracies – and in each battle, unless you’re very rich, you are losing.” 4 likes
“A table in Raymond Baker’s 2005 book Capitalism’s Achilles Heel outlines just how far the United States has fallen. By then, it showed, U.S. banks were free to receive the proceeds from a long list of crimes committed outside the country, including alien smuggling, racketeering, peonage, and slavery.4 Profiting from these crimes is legal, just so long as the crime itself happens offshore. A few of these loopholes have now been closed, and U.S. law addresses some of the others, though often only in tangential, incomplete ways. But it remains true that a U.S. bank can knowingly receive the proceeds of a wide range of foreign crimes, such as handling stolen property generated offshore.” 0 likes
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