Jun 22 2012

Debate: me vs. Mr. Angry of the Cayman Islands

Posted by: Nick Shaxson in: Thoughts

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.

6 comments so far

Demetrius 6nd June, 2012 1.51 pm

To equate those supporting tax justice in both the developing world and the developed world as from the “extreme political left” is quite silly. Amongst those who question what is going on now are numbers from a wide range of views in the political spectrum.

michael wilner 6nd June, 2012 2.48 pm

Sir, i was watching newsnight when the carr incident was being discussed.What a shame that the presenter (mayliss) didnt ask the right questions re: tax avoidance.i went on to the discussion website on the bbc site and said that reece-mogg was a typical true blue in his comments using the “legal” excuse and quoted a couple of paragraphs from treasure islands only to be told that my comments on the programme website would not be allowed! your right about the beeb not having too much to say about tax havens, m.w.

Peter 6th June, 2012 12.55 pm

Any youtube recordings?

Nick Shaxson 6th June, 2012 2.23 pm

i dont think so, unfortunately. i am not sure they are big fans of publishing all their talks and debates

[…] not the exclusive preserve of one side or other of the political spectrum. (Take a look at this, or this, for example.) People on the left probably sympathise more rapidly and instinctively with my […]

[…] can just imagine Mr. Angry in the Cayman Islands firing off furious, fiery fusillades to the FT to follow this one. He […]

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