Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 325–343 | Cite as

The hidden trillions: Secrecy, corruption, and the offshore interface

  • John ChristensenEmail author


This paper considers the role of secrecy jurisdictions in creating a supply-side stimulus for corrupt practices and explores the use of the newly created Financial Secrecy Index as a tool for assessing and ranking such jurisdictions. Secrecy jurisdictions are a prominent feature of international financial markets, providing a combination of low or zero tax rates, lax regulation, weak international judicial cooperation, and—above all—legalised secrecy facilities. Citing the case of Barbados, this paper shows how an environment of legalised secrecy is purposefully created by not requiring disclosure of ownership information for corporations, trusts, foundations and other legal entities; through non-participation or ineffective participation in judicial cooperation and information exchange; and through laws to protect banking secrecy arrangements. Taken in combination these factors make secrecy jurisdictions attractive conduits for illicit cross-border financial flows and the harbouring of dirty money. Using secrecy jurisdictions as platforms for their operations, legal and financial intermediaries create complex and opaque offshore structures to facilitate economic crime and impede investigation. Current international efforts to stem the activities of secrecy jurisdictions are largely ineffective, but civil society is raising pressure for effective action to be taken against offshore secrecy.


Money Laundering Financial Intermediary Corruption Perception Index Corrupt Practice Financial Action Task Force 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Financial support from the Ford Foundation for the Mapping the Faultlines research programme is gratefully acknowledged. The author is also grateful for the financial support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tax Justice Network International SecretariatCheshamUK

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