What if we democratized tax loopholes? Paolo Cirio hacks Cayman Island banks to open up off-shore tax evasion for the rest of us
The Cayman Islands is one of the world’s top ten offshore financial centers. An estimated $1.7 trillion of foreign capital is on deposit in this tiny island nation, and administered by hundreds of thousands of offshore companies, corporations, and hedge funds. Setting up offshore corporations on the Cayman Islands is relatively easy and protected by strict secrecy laws. Yet ironically, this anonymity allows anybody to impersonate owners of Cayman bank accounts with a simple click.
Paolo Cirio, contemporary artist and political activist, shows us how it can be done. In his recent project, Loopholes for All, he hacked into the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce to extract the names of 200,000 firms registered there. He then created a limited liability company with headquarters in London and put all of the names up for sale on his website, www.loopholes4all.com - with an open invitation for anyone to hide money off-shore.
For just 99 cents, users can obtain a certificate that enables them to generate invoices in that company’s name. At a cost of $49, users can also obtain their own post office box in the Caymans to receive invoices that are then anonymously rerouted to users’ real addresses. Playing on these kinds of tax “loopholes” - which are not totally legal but also not pursuable due to banking secrecy rights - is possible because of the complex corporate structure of Paolo Cirio LTD.
By subverting the mechanisms of the system, Cirio exposes us to the absurdity of the financial system and levels the playing field to make tax evasion accessible to all. Cirio’s work is meant to “democratize the privileges of offshore businesses”, enabling anyone to assume the identity of a hedge fund or a well-known multinational company. Everyone should have the possibility of exploiting the same tax benefits that major corporations are constantly taking advantage of, Paolo stated.
In participatory art practice, Cirio makes us question the blurring lines between legality and illegality in our global financial system, and to consider why companies are allowed to bypass all fiscal controls in their countries of origin. Is the de-territorialization of business inevitable, or will we re-think the notion of corporate social responsibility for the modern age? Cirio hopes to expand Loopholes for All into other tax havens around the world, challenging current poltiical hegemonies and dominant logics to redesign the flow of money in the name of public interest.