Gabriele Galimberti’s deep dive into tax havens.
Tax havens have quietly taken the world by storm. More than half of world trade now passes through these places. They are in the news every day, and are fast becoming a constant fixture of the political debate.
The growing flow of articles and reports on this poorly understood subject are usually illustrated with images of palm-fringed tropical beaches.
Is that what tax havens really look like? From Delaware to Jersey; from Singapore to Panama; from the British Virgin Islands to the City of London, passing through Cayman, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, we take you on a tour into a rarely seen, secretive world that is quite different from what you imagine.
For more than two years we have travelled to the offshore centers that embody tax avoidance, secrecy, offshore banking and extreme wealth, driven by a constant obsession with translating this rather immaterial subject into images. We have produced a body of work that shows what these places look like, but, even more importantly, what they mean.
It has been estimated that as much as $32 trillion are sheltered in tax havens worldwide, largely out of sight. That is 13 times the GDP of the United Kingdom. Much of this money is stashed offshore by very wealthy individuals. But a growing share is owned by companies that use tax havens, often legally, to escape financial regulations or to reduce their taxes, draining the resources countries can spend on education, health care and security.
Tax havens are not an exotic tropical eccentricity, but have become a structural instrument of the globalized economy. They confront us with fundamental moral issues, involving the relationships between public and private; between companies and states; and between the haves and the have-nots.
We have conceived the resulting book as the self-congratulatory annual report of a successful company, borrowing the photographic tropes and language of the world we have investigated. The company, aptly named “The Heavens”, actually exists, and we have incorporated it in Delaware, where for a small fee – with no documents required or questions asked – an LLC can be formed in less than 20 minutes. “The Heavens” is now based in the same Delaware office as Apple, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Google, Wal-Mart and 285,000 other businesses.
The book, in slip-cased hardback coffee table format, has more than 80 plates, and a text by Nicholas Shaxson, one of the most recognized experts in the field, that helps the reader decode the workings of tax havens and shows why we are all deeply affected.
You can see more of Elton’s work here.
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All photos: © Gabriele Galimberti
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