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¿Dónde están los trillones?

By Eduardo Morgan Jr.

Published on La Estrella

April 17, 2013


The world press has circulated with great prominence, which has also been echoed by our media, the news that a group of journalists based in Washington under the sonorous name of Consortium of Investigative Journalists has access to 2 million e-mails and other documents from the British Virgin Islands. These documents name millionaires, officials, political leaders, dictators and their families, from five continents. The news highlight that the value of fortunes hidden in BVI and other tax havens exceeds the astronomical sum of 32 trillion dollars. What investigative journalists do not explain is in what countries are those trillions. No one can believe that the tiny BVI or other tax havens may have in their banks or economy that huge sum. Because of the seriousness of the organization they represent we should expect this investigation to continue to give us insights into the countries that give refuge to such wealth, largely ill-gotten or hiding their tax obligations.


We think it will not be difficult to find the bearers of these fortunes. All countries, particularly the richest in Europe and the U.S. have strict laws against money laundering and, as it is in the case of Panama, its banks and trustees are required to know their customers and to find out the source of the money.  There are studies from recognized organizations on non-resident deposits and compliance with the rules of transparency with emphasis on understanding the client to precisely prevent money laundering. Investigative journalists can start with the excellent study “Privately held non-resident deposits in secrecy jurisdictions” dated March 10, 2010 and authored by Ann Hollingshead. This research was conducted with funding from the Ford Foundation. This study can be consulted on the Internet. From its content we extract the following information:


 The study is part of the Global Financial Integrity program that focuses on the transnational movement of illicit funds. Their sources are the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund and central banks in international financial centers. It is clarified that in the context of the study the connotation “secret jurisdiction” has a broader picture of countries that the traditional definition of offshore financial centers. The study identifies that there are about 10 trillion dollars from these funds; the U.S. is in first place with $2 trillion, the UK and the Cayman Islands are in second and third respectively with about $ 1.5 trillion each. Private deposits of non-residents are defined as deposits belonging to private individuals or corporations from another jurisdiction.


The term “secret jurisdiction” is defined as: “Places that intentionally established regulations for the benefit and use of non-residents in their geographical domain. These regulations are intended to affect legislation or regulation from another jurisdiction. To facilitate its use, secret jurisdictions also provide a veil of secrecy that ensures that non-residents who use them can not be identified”.

It also notes that the United States, with the largest economy in the world, is the first in the secret jurisdictions’ index and also the one that cooperates the least with other jurisdictions. The Cayman Islands occupy the 4th place and the UK the 5th.


To find information about the investment destination investigative journalists will not have to “hack” BVI mails nor “invent” that they have penetrated our Public Registry (where, as it is known, you can enter through the front door and the information is public for all).  They will only have to log into the Internet and find the excellent studies and investigations of UN agencies and the U.S. government and also access the studies of the GAO (Government Accountability Office), and Senate hearings and FinCEN, which serves as a financial police for the U.S. Treasury Department and similar organizations. Without difficulty they could make an inventory of the places where big crooks from some third world countries and corrupt officials from developed countries hide or display their enormous fortunes. And likewise, discover and publicize the laws and practices of “secrecy jurisdictions” and thus help the public opinion in these countries and the world to blame and shame them for these practices. To achieve this, it is necessary for all countries to come together to end so much hypocrisy which only affects the harmonious development of society.

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