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About the book
  • 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.

* Dirty money, tax havens and the offshore system - this secretive world is far bigger, and more central to the world economy, than almost anyone realises.

* The World Bank has reported that the flow of dirty money across borders, out of developing countries and into the rich economies, is up to ten times greater than the foreign aid that flows the other way.

* The offshore system has been – discreetly – responsible for the greatest shift of wealth from poor to rich in the history of our planet. It is undermining our democracies, and offering the wealthiest sections of our societies escape routes from tax, regulation, and other normal democratic controls. This is the ugliest chapter in global economic affairs since slavery.

* Most people either ignore tax havens, or see them merely as tropical islands peopled by crooks, spivs, spies and celebrity tax exiles. They mistakenly believe that the main offshore problems are money laundering and terrorist financing. These are essentially small parts of the picture. Treasure Islands exposes the much bigger game.

* The 'anti-globalisation' movement tapped into an uneasy feeling, shared by millions of people, that something was rotten in the world economy. They were right. But so far, they have struggled to understand where the real problem lies. The huge reservoir of deep mistrust is still pervades and Treasure Islands sets out to articulate the problem and expose the deep levels of corruption that impacts our lives on a daily basis.

* The profound, coherent analysis, backed by the leading experts in the field, will identify the original source of the trouble and bring to the fore the pressing, urgent debate about tax and its role in the world economy, development and foreign aid.

  • Pub date: 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

“An utterly superb book”

Jeffrey Sachs

“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

“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

“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

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

George Monbiot, Guardian

“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

“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

“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

“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

“[An] informed polemic against finance capital”

Oliver Kamm, The Times

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