Yesterday I finally met Mr. Angry of the Cayman Islands, a.k.a. Anthony Travers OBE, currently chairman of the Cayman Islands stock exchange. He has been leading a one-man protest movement against Treasure Islands for quite some time, and we had a debate at a trusts conference in Geneva yesterday.
I think that he had hoped to give me and my friend and co-speaker Alex Cobham a good kicking in front of a home crowd, but that didn’t happen at all: rather the opposite, I feel. Immediately afterwards, I went up to Travers and tried to shake his hand, twice. He refused each time, declaring that “I am not your friend Mr. Shaxson, and I don’t actually like you.”
Fair enough, and hardly surprising I guess. I told him he was rather unsporting, and left it at that.
Travers is actually a really good speaker, with wonderful turns of phrase: one of the many straw men he put up there was that people like me were angling for a “uniform worldwide tax rate overseen by a globally omnipotent Mad Hatter” – which, while being nothing like anything I or any of my colleagues have said, is pretty funny.
He said that those worried about tax avoidance were from the ‘extreme political left’ which puts him in an interesting position on the spectrum, given that Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister just a few hours earlier had called an aggressive Jersey-based tax avoidance by the comedian Jimmy Carr ‘morally wrong,’ and his Chancellor, George Osborne, earlier described aggressive tax avoidance “morally repugnant.” Rupert Murdoch’s Times newspaper did so too.
Which, I think, all goes to show the point about the leaders of offshore typically being on the extreme right of the political spectrum. As I say in Treasure Islands:
“Offshore attitudes are characterised by amazing similarities of argument, of approach and of method, and some striking psychological affinities in a geographically diverse but like-minded global cultural community. A peculiar mixture of characters populates this world: castle-owning members of ancient continental European aristocracies, fanatical supporters of American libertarian writer Ayn Rand, members of the world’s intelligence services, global criminals, British public schoolboys, assorted lords and ladies and bankers galore. Its bugbears are government, laws and taxes, and its slogan is freedom.”
On the evidence of yesterday, much of this could have been written about my friend Mr. Travers, though in his favour he did press the point about how it is important to follow the law.
Anyway, it was a good event, and I can only praise the organisers of the conference for bringing in two ‘hostiles’ to challenge them.
P.S. I left my notes on the train, so these quotes are from memory: but I think pretty close to the originals.