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The world’s shortest blacklist

I was already kind of skeptical about the G-20’s pledge to crack down on tax havens, but after reading Alexander Neubacher’s Der Spiegel piece on the tax haven "black list," which contains a whopping zero countries, I’m only more so: Less than 120 hours after the close of the London summit, the Organization for Economic ...

I was already kind of skeptical about the G-20’s pledge to crack down on tax havens, but after reading Alexander Neubacher’s Der Spiegel piece on the tax haven "black list," which contains a whopping zero countries, I’m only more so:

Less than 120 hours after the close of the London summit, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published the shortest blacklist of all time — with exactly zero entries. Apparently not a single country today remains willing to serve as a place of refuge for global capital.

The fact that all the world’s tax havens seem to have disappeared overnight is primarily the result of skillful diplomacy. Even the most notorious offshore financial centers have managed to quickly purge themselves of all suspicions of aiding and abetting tax evaders.

At one point, the OECD was vowing to expand the list to include countries like Switzerland, but now even the Cayman Islands — a country with more registered companies than people — managed to get itself moved to the "gray list" of countries that are supposedly working to clean up their act:

On April 1, just one day before the London summit, the Cayman Islands managed to sign seven bilateral treaties — with the Faeroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland, for example — to cooperate on matters of taxation. Although the specific concessions made by the Caymans, a British overseas territory, are modest, what counts is the spirit of willingness.

China also took pains to avoid international disgrace. According to participants in the preparatory meetings leading up to the summit, the Chinese negotiators categorically refused to be placed on the gray list, let alone the black list.

Otherwise, so the Chinese threatened, they would let the entire list project fail — an outcome that France, for its part, was determined to prevent. Before the summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had boldly told French voters that he planned to wage a relentless battle against tax havens.

I feel like this can’t have been what Sarkozy had in mind.

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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