During the recent G-20 summit in London, the countries with the biggest economies in the planet agreed to increase political pressure over fiscal paradises in order to fetch more information on the people and corporations that have deposited money there.
Having money deposited in a bank located in some sort of fiscal paradise or tax haven is not a bad thing in itself, since everybody is free to do whatever he or she wants that money. Your money is your property. But the problem is the origin of such money; sometimes, cash obtained by dubious means and from even more dubious sources enters the financial market thorough fiscal paradises. However, since innocence is to be presumed as a principle, not everyone depositing money there should be considered as a potential crook, neither could such countries and jurisdictions be considered as evil per se.
Governments around the world, however, seek to get the most benefits from taxation and thus consider these jurisdictions as - at least - potentially harmful to their interests for an obvious reason: What goes into a tax haven or fiscal paradise is lost to tax agencies. Of course, money laundering and drug trafficking are problems, but for each drug lord that makes a deposit in a fiscal paradise there are thousands of individuals from whom without precise and individual proof nobody could say anything bad about except that putting the money there seems a little bit unpatriotic.
It is not surprising indeed that governments are trying to eliminate fiscal paradises. However, such an initiative is destined to fail because whenever and wherever there is a demand for a product or service, it doesn't take long until offers appear. The demand for discretion and security always existed in the financial market, and not only from crooks trying to hide their profits, but - for example - from people that want to put their legitimate property at a safe distance from rapacious or incompetent leaders - ask the people of Argentina or Iceland about that.
If we combine this with the widespread increase in the amounts and percentages paid as taxes by people and corporations around the planet, mostly thanks to the fact that financial institutions, having now all their operations networked and based on computer systems, are easier to control, a recipe of temptation becomes unavoidable, because more taxes at home, less services and less security simply make more people wonder. Common citizens in Europe have been complaining that since the introduction of the Euro as their currency, everything costs more, and this has been quantified. It is a fact. Such increases in prices are related in one way or another to taxation, so, it should not come as a surprise that those with a somewhat higher-than-average income often start looking into the direction of any tax haven.
Aside from all this, how many cases of real money laundering have been actually detected? Is it justifiable to have developed and to strive to continue developing a worldwide tight grip on tax havens due to money laundering fears? It could be argued that no detections means that the system works, but alas, if it really worked, drug and weapons trafficking wouldn't remain as profitable as they are. In other words: drug lords and war lords put their money somewhere don't they? And then they buy their condos, villas, private jets and private armies from completely legal and open sources. In fact, Colombian cartels and groups like the FARC have managed to continue a 40-year old war with that money.
It is not just the fiscal paradises, and it could be argued that these tiny jurisdictions are not even important in this game: You can't buy a brand-new Learjet calling by phone from a place like Monrovia. You have to make financial transactions in a place like New York. They do this all the time so, could it be that the system doesn't really work?
And adding the cherry on top of the cake, let's consider the present global financial crisis: As far as we know, it wasn't provoked by Swiss numbered accounts or some banks in Uruguay. It was caused by supposedly well-managed, rated and controlled banks operating under licenses granted by and audited by the same governments that now are growling about tax havens. Thus, one question comes into being: assuming that fiscal paradises and tax havens disappear from the face of the planet, would all that money be safer in the banks that caused this crisis or more secure under the aegis of governments such as those ruling the jurisdictions where the financial crisis started?
After all, those legit banks and the even more legit fiscal control structures overseeing them have been the cause and fertile soil for this crisis to take hold on our lives, causing losses to governments around the world far in excess of any tax crumbs eaten by tiny tax havens and fiscal paradises. Then, consider this: It wasn't a Bahamian bank that took away the house of your neighbour. Would it be safer to put your money under the rule of such banks and institutions or away from them?
The answer to this question would tell you whether fiscal paradises will continue to exist or not.