Offshore in central London: the curious case of 29 Harley Street

On a central London street renowned for high-class healthcare sits a property that houses 2,159 companies. Why has this prestigious address been used so many times as a centre for elaborate international fraud?


No 29 Harley Street does not look like a centre of intricate intercontinental fraud. It is a handsome stone-fronted terraced house, a couple of minutes’ walk from the shops and the tourists of Oxford Street. It is five storeys high, with a bay window on the ground floor, an intricate steel balcony at first-floor level, and a stone balustrade just under the roof. Its front door is dark wood, with brass fittings.

As soon as companies were involved in owning other companies, as well as being their directors and secretaries, it became extremely difficult to discover who really controlled them (ie who was the “beneficial owner”, the person who received any benefit from the company). In February 2004, for example, Formations House created three companies: Corporate Nominees, Legal Nominees, and Professional Nominees. The second company owns the other two, while itself being owned by the first company. The third company is secretary for the other two, while its own secretary is the first company. The second company is director of the other two, while its own director is the first company. These three companies then became directors, secretaries and shareholders of other structures, in an increasingly baffling multidimensional web of crisscrossing lines of control. If you looked for the companies’ real owners, the most you could eventually discover was that the original three all owned, controlled and managed each other.

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Myth and Reality of The “Panama Papers”

Contrary to what may appear in the media, the «Panama Papers» campaign will not lead to restraining embezzlement of funds, nor to expanding social justice or liberties, but the exact opposite. The system is going to strength a bit more the financial system power and tax heaven mechanisms of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Statistically, the major off shore locations for tax heaven are the Independent State of the City of London and the State of Delaware and newly Israel. However for sure, other tax havens exist, notably British ones: the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, Gibraltar, Anguilla, the Bermudas, the Cayman Islands, Turks, the Virgin Islands, Montserrat… and many others non Anglo-Saxon.

A tax haven is a «free zone» rolled out to cover the entire country. However, in the collective imagination, a free zone is indispensable to the economy, whereas a «tax haven» is a calamity. Of course, some abuse free zones to launder money and others abuse tax havens to avoid paying taxes. However this is no reason to challenge the existence of these provisions that are vital to international trade.

In their war against non Anglo-Saxon tax havens, the United States has notably struck blows against many financial competitors, for example by forcing Switzerland to abandon its banking secrecy and by destabilizing Greece and Cyprus. During the last eight years, we have been present at a number of G8 and G20 meetings which have established all sorts of international rules, supposedly to avert tax evasion. However, once everyone had adopted these rules, the United States – and to a lesser extent Israel, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – dispensed with them. By forcing rules, the United States has expanded its exclusive mass surveillance of economic transactions. In this way, they can easily deceive and sabotage the competition.

It is in this context that Washington, through the organization International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), has provided Süddeutsche Zeitung 11 500 000 computer files hacked from the fourth law firm in the world instructed to establish offshore companies and  initiating the propaganda campaign of the Panama Papers. Although Washington seems to have carefully excluded the files relating to US nationals or businesses and then probably those related to its most close allies. This propaganda against political and economic adversaries is simply the tip of the iceberg. The important point is the future of the international financial system.

The ICIJ is an association that specializes not in investigative journalism but in denouncing financial crimes. The ICIJ, that has already published more than 15 million computer files since its establishment, has never harmed the interests of the United States and its close allies. Therefore it certainly cannot claim that its actions are prompted out of concern for justice. The ICIJ has not posed the ethical question; it is financed by a number of organizations linked to the interests of the United States, such as the Ford Foundation and the George Soros Foundations.

What will be the outcome of this vast campaign? First the reputation of Panama is destroyed and it will take many years to resurrect. Then, petty criminals that have systematically abused the system will be maybe prosecuted, while a number of honest traders will have to justify themselves at length before the courts. But contrary to appearances, those who breathe life into this campaign will ensure that nothing has changed. The system will thus remain in place, but from now on will have to function to the benefit of the statistically more important tax heavens. While believing that they are defending their liberties, those who will have participated in this campaign will have in reality reduced it.

Panama Papers: Berenberg-Mitarbeiter warnten vor Offshore-Geschäften

Hans-Walter Peters von der Privatbank Berenberg ist neuer Präsident beim Bundesverband deutscher Banken. Mit ihm sollte endlich wieder Ruhe in die von Skandalen gebeutelte Branche einkehren. Doch nun steht die Berenberg Bank im Fokus der Panama Papers. Waren Offshore-Geschäfte bei der Berenberg-Bank Alltag? Nein, sagt Bankchef Hans-Walter Peters. Doch Ex-Mitarbeiter warnten schon 2013 vor solchen Deals – und wurden entlassen.


Kazakh lobbying in Switzerland is now dead

Several recent scandals have thrown the spotlight on efforts to influence Swiss parliamentarians by the regime of president Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. The authoritarian Central Asian state commonly uses such lobbying methods, as it tries to improve its image in the West.


Taler, Taler, du musst wandern

Von Ingo Malcher, von brandeins wirtschaftsmagazin


Geldwäsche ist ein internationales Gewerbe – und es ist nicht immer leicht zu unterscheiden: Was ist ein legales Geschäft und was nicht? Denn die Beteiligten machen sich dabei zunutze, was auch der legalen Wirtschaft dient: die Globalisierung.