Friday 15 March 2013

Get your offshore company here: an unusual art project

It's not often that taxation becomes the subject of an art project. But Paolo Cirio, an Italian who describes himself as a "contemporary artist and pirate", has based his latest project on the topic of tax havens.

His press release explains that having "set up a company in the City of London as a shield for legal persecution", he has "hacked the governmental servers of the Cayman Islands and stole[n] a list of all the companies incorporated in the country, making it public for the first time". Not only this, but via his website at, you too can purchase a (faked) certificate of incorporation for one of these companies for the bargain price of 99 cents. "Finally," the release goes on, "small businesses and middle class people can invoice from the major offshore centres and avoid unfair taxes, legal responsibility and economic disruption in their own indebted home countries".

The Cayman Islands Companies Registry is not impressed by Cirio's artistic output. "Basically," says its senior official registrar Donnell Dixon, "the guy is scamming people." Compass Cayman reports that Dixon is concerned members of the public will purchase such certificates thinking that they are real. Dixon has also claimed Cirio has not in fact hacked the Cayman Islands' registry of company details, and that the details on are publicly available – a statement Cirio refutes. Presumably, if Cirio did not in fact hack any servers, he is at a much lower risk of any legal repercussions – without his art project being any the less thought-provoking.

Cirio's project is riding the crest of a huge wave of public interest in taxation, with the news full of tales about multinationals which make millions in the UK but pay minimal UK corporation tax, the Big Four accountancy firms questioned by the Public Accounts Committee, and consumers apparently boycotting those companies they feel are not paying their way. Its commentary on the lack of tax transparency in tax havens will certainly chime with public sentiment, and it's unlikely that many will be feeling much sympathy for the administrative woes of the Caymans Companies Registry.    

Read more here.

No comments: