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Anguilla Creates Indelible Inc.
by Declan McCullagh

12:00 p.m.  7.Sep.99.PDT
BRISBANE, Australia -- Alan Jones is an unlikely advocate of tax havens.

The veteran British bureaucrat seems visibly uncomfortable talking up the benefits of hiding money where tax collectors can't find it.


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"I never thought I'd see the day as a civil servant where I'd be talking about this," he says.

But when Jones moved to Anguilla three years ago and became the registrar of corporations in this tiny British protectorate with no personal or corporate income taxes, he overcame his doubts and got laissez-faire religion.

"It's my business to allow people to trade anonymously and avoid paying tax," he admits.

To lure offshore investors hoping to dodge the IRS or conceal assets from a divorcing spouse, the government recently opened a Web site that lets registered users form a completely official Anguilla-based corporation online.

It takes about five minutes and costs US$250. When you're done, you get a certificate of incorporation with a bright red seal on the bottom of the screen that you can print out -- and, believe it or not, that's all you need under Anguillan law to go into business or to open an account at a US bank.

"Setting up a company is a matter of filling out a very simple form," Jones said Tuesday at a conference here organized by the John Galt Society. "We're the only registry in the world that uses this sort of system."

The idea is that savvy investors can transfer valuable assets such as cars, houses, or bank accounts to an offshore corporation -- where they'll be outside the reach of all but the most determined tax authorities. The form requests no information about directors or shareholders.

But how to get, say, cash from a Caribbean bank account back to the United States, undetected? "Stuff it down your trousers and look innocent when you're going through customs," Jones said. "There is no other way of doing this. It is very difficult."

So is setting up a truly anonymous bank account in Anguilla, a Caribbean island of 36 square miles and 10,000 people.

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