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  • Published: 18 February 2012
  • ISBN: 9781446450147
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

Treasure Islands

Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World

This is the ugliest chapter in global economic affairs since slavery - and secretive offshore tax havens are at the heart of the trouble.


Billionaire Warren Buffet, currently the third wealthiest man in the world, paid the lowest rate of tax among his office staff, including his receptionist.

In 2006 the world's three biggest banana companies did nearly £400 million worth of business in Britain but paid just £128,000 in tax between them.

In January 2009, US law enforcement fined Lloyds TSB $350 million after it admitted secretly channelling Iranian and Sudanese money into the US banking system.

Tax havens are the most important single reason why poor people and poor countries stay poor. They lie at the very heart of the global economy, with over half the world trade processed through them. They have been instrumental in nearly every major economic event, in every big financial scandal, and in every financial crisis since the 1970s, including the latest global economic downturn.

In Treasure Islands, Nicholas Shaxson shows how this happened, and what this means for you.

  • Published: 18 February 2012
  • ISBN: 9781446450147
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

About the author

Nicholas Shaxson

Nicholas Shaxson is the author of Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World and Poisoned Wells: the Dirty Politics of African Oil. He is a journalist, a campaigner and world expert on both tax havens and financial centres; and on the Resource Curse. His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, Financial Times, The Economist, The Economist Intelligence Unit, and many others. He is part of the organisation the Tax Justice Network.

Also by Nicholas Shaxson

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Praise for Treasure Islands

Trade and investments can play a profoundly productive role on the world economy. But so much of the capital flows that we see are associated with money laundering, tax evasion, and the wholesale larceny of assets often of very poor countries. These thefts are greatly facilitated by special tax and accounting rules or designed to "attract capital" and embodying obscure and opaque mechanisms. Shaxson does an outstanding and socially valuable job in penetrating the impenetrable and finds a deeply shocking world

Nicholas Stern

At last, a readable - indeed gripping - book which explains the nuts and bolts of tax havens. More importantly, it lays bare the mechanism that financial capital has been using to stay in charge: capturing government policy-making around the world, shaking off such irritants as democracy and the rule of law, and making sure that suckers like you and me pay for its operators' opulent lifestyles

Misha Glenny, author of McMafia

The struggle against money power is a struggle for human freedom, and Nicholas Shaxson's investigation is a timely exposé of where the plunder is buried

John Pilger, broadcaster and author of Heroes

Perhaps the most important book published in the UK so far this year

George Monbiot, Guardian

A gripping read... an account illuminated by anecdotes that are often more James Bond than eurobond... Shaxson shows us that the global financial machine is broken and that very few of us have noticed

New Statesman

A gobsmacking indictment of a global conspiracy that makes City bonuses seem like small change

The Herald

A chronicle of capitalism's frailty and foulness that digs far beyond its tax haven title and indicts the system that renders such crookedness not merely possible, but entirely predictable. It's not the banks or the hedge funds or the tame solicitors. It's the politicians as well, our politicians. It's not just the Cayman Islanders or the Swiss or the Panamanians. It's London and Washington, the OECD and the World Bank. It's the whole damned thing


Treasure Islands is the best book on tax havens, ever. It shines a light in some very dark places. It reads like a thriller. The shocking thing is, it's all true. The world's suppliers of corruption services - the bankers, lawyers and accountants working from tax havens - won't want you to read this book. Which is exactly why you should

Richard Murphy, Director of Tax Research UK

Shaxson combines meticulous research with amusing anecdotes, resulting in a very readable account of the murky world of offshore and a strong moral message that the system needs to be changed

Financial Times

A blistering account of the role that tax havens play in international finance... Brilliant

London Review of Books

Far more than an exposé, Treasure Islands is a brilliantly illuminating, forensic analysis of where economic power really lies, and the shockingly corrupt way in which it behaves. If you're wondering how ordinary people ended up paying for a crisis caused by the reckless greed of the banking industry, this compellingly readable book provides the answers

David Wearing, co-editor of New Left Project

In this riveting, well-written expose, Shaxson goes deep into the largely unexamined realm of offshore money. In the process, he reveals that this shadow world is no mere sideshow, but is troublingly central to modern finance, with the US and the UK as leaders. The resulting abuses are widespread, ranging from tax revenue stripping from African nations to individuals and corporations escaping enforcement and accountability. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the hidden reasons why financial services firms have become so powerful and impossible to reform

Yves Smith, creator of Naked Capitalism and author of Econned

They who sold us globalisation as a way of the whole world getting richer with fair rules, cheated us by letting the rich and powerful go "offshore". This gripping exposé should help end the scandal

Anthony Barnett, founder of openDemocracy

Possibly the most important political book that I have read since The Spirit Level

Stuart Weir, co-founder of Charter 88, former editor of the New Statesman

He has prised the lid off an important and terrifying can of worms

Martin Vander Weyer, Literary Review

Lively and well written book

Toby Young, Mail on Sunday

An utterly superb book

Jeffrey Sachs

A welcome account of how the sun is never allowed to set on the British empire's old islands, whose fiscal pirates hoard the tax-free treasures of the rich

Geoffrey Robertson, New Statesman, Books of the Year

Shaxson delves into capitalism's secret nooks and tells us about how a culture of secrecy can perpetuate itself. Very interesting

William Leith, Evening Standard

A compelling read [...] an important and very much a live topic, it'll take you a few hours to read the book but it will be a worthwhile investment of time

Peter Magee, Bookbag

What makes this such a good read for the layman is that the author employs all his journalistic skill (he used to work at Reuters) to illustrate his arguments and uses real examples to real examples to illustrate complex issues

John Arlidge, Sunday Times

This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the world we live in

Brian Maye, Irish Times

This engrossing book about the offshore banking racket, with its eye-opening scrutiny of tax havens and the suited scoundrels who profit from them, will make you think again about the murkier side of the City...This first-rate forensic work ends with a plea that the closed City "must be abolished and submerged into a...fully democratic London"

Boyd Tonkin, Independent

Not just a crucial exposé of the corrupt systems endemic in the global economy, but also a rousing call to do something about them

Holly Kyte, Sunday Telegraph

[An] informed polemic against finance capital

Oliver Kamm, The Times

Excellent... Shaxson comes as close as anyone ever has in getting the crux of the tax haven conundrum, which is to attempt to answer the question: why are they tolerated? - Evening Standard

Evening Standard

A fascinating, chilling book

Paul Krugman

Now more than a decade old, this is still the best introduction to the world of tax havens

Economist, *Summer Reads of 2022*

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