Curious to see how hard it would be, Adam Davidson of The New York Times, went about setting up his own offshore bank account. It turns out that, it's not hard at all and all it took to get started was a simple Google search.
I ended up working with A&P Intertrust, a Canadian company that I chose largely because I liked its Web site the best. (The other two companies' sites appeared stuck in a late-'90s style with lots of flashing boxes.) A&P works with the governments of Panama, the British Virgin Islands and Belize. (Other companies that I contacted prefer the Seychelles, Cyprus or the Cayman Islands, where Mitt Romney has been reported to have money.) I decided to start my shell company in Belize because it would be exempt from all Belizean taxes and, as A&P's site explained, "information about beneficial owners, shareholders, directors and officers is not filed with the Belize government and not available to the public." And I've been to Belize and like the place.
Setting up the company was a lot cheaper than I expected. A&P charged $900 for a basic Belizean incorporation and another $85 for a corporate seal to emboss legal documents. For $650 more, A&P offered to open a bank account to stash my fledgling operation's money in Singapore -- a country, the Web site also noted, that "cannot gather information on foreigners' bank accounts, bank-deposit interest and investment gains under domestic tax law." And for another $690, it offered to assign a "nominee" who would be listed as the official manager and owner of my business but would report to me under a secret power-of-attorney contract. Then an A&P associate asked me to fill out the incorporation information online, just so she wouldn't type in anything incorrectly. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.
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