Friday, January 18, 2008

Liechtenstein on the high seas

Lichtenstein, a little tax haven on the European continent, is doubly landlocked (i.e. surrounded by landlocked countries.) It also appears to have a number of ships sailing the high seas under its name: there is a thriving business in ship registration and a number of companies who will register them for you, without too many questions asked. It is just one more example showing the ridiculous lengths governments will go to to allow the world's élites to avoid regulation and tax, leaving you and me to pay their taxes for them. It would be comical if the effects were not so devastating.

Liechtenstein has one of the world's nastiest bank secrecy regimes. As one cheerleader for this pro-crime practice put it:

If Swiss banking secrecy is strict, it's even stricter in neighboring Liechtenstein. With its ruling prince living in a mountaintop castle, Liechtenstein may appear like something out of a fairy tale, but its privacy and asset protection laws are arguably the world's strongest.

In 2003 a referendum was called to allow Prince Hans-Adam II (who already had powers to dissolve parliament and call elections) to hire and fire governments at will. Ahead of the referendum, Sigvard Wolhwend of the country's Democratic Secretariat Party, warned that granting the prince more power could turn Liechtenstein into a dictatorship . As Wohlwend said:

He has more than enough power and it's not democratic to have the head of the state who is uncontrollable and has the power to dismiss parliament and government whenever he feels like it. I think that's the real, real bad thing.

Oh, and one more thing. Prince Hans-Adam (Johannes Adam Ferdinand Alois Josef Maria Marko d'Aviano Pius von und zu Liechtenstein to you, or "His Serene Highness") owns the Liechtenstein Global Trust (LGT), with $100 billion in assets. It has a nice little line in "wealth management" - that cover-all term beloved of some bankers that is used to describe (among other things) highly abusive tax tricks for the benefit of the world's wealthy élites, which are at the heart of the corruption of the global economy. So, Prince Hans-Adam, no conflict of interest there, then.


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