Even by the standards of tax-havens, Gibraltar is pretty sketchy

As Brexit shambles on, UK Tory Parliamentarians and Theresa May are spoiling for a re-run of the Falklands Island debacle, this time over Gibraltar, a British outpost at the tip of Spain.

Leaving aside the foolishness of such a military adventure (what could be more on-the-nose than two European nations going to war as the immediate aftermath of one leaving the EU, whose defenders have always claimed ended the centuries of military hostilities, replacing them with a parliament where disputes can be peacefully settled?), there is the question of what purpose Gibraltar serves.

Well, it's not just a tax-haven (60,000 companies are registered in Gibraltar, two for every resident), it's also a smuggler's paradise (117m packs of cigs traverse Gibraltar tax-free, enough for everyone there to sustain a 10 pack a day habit). When Vladimir Putin was first planning to seize the Russian presidency, Gibraltar was his preferred way to sneak into Europe and meet with co-conspirators.

There are more than 60,000 companies registered in Gibraltar (two for every resident) and they routinely pop up in bribery scandals all over the world. In 2005, telecoms giant Vimpelcom wanted to expand into Uzbekistan and, needing to gain the government’s approval, cut in Gibraltar-registered Takilant Ltd for tens of millions of pounds.

Takilant was, in reality, just a front for Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the Uzbek dictator, Islam Karimov, and a would-be pop star referred to by US diplomats as “the single most hated person in the country”. Other scandals facilitated on the Rock have touched on Nigeria, Congo, Ghana and elsewhere.

It is a tribute to Gibraltar’s PR operation that more people in Britain don’t realise what is going on. Gibraltar is not part of the UK, can set its own tax rates and has been using them to aggressively undermine us as much as, if not more than, everyone else. A Gibraltarian growth industry in recent years has been online gambling, with most of the big UK operators – William Hill, Ladbrokes, Bet365 – moving their operations to the Rock.

Defend Gibraltar? Better condemn it as a dodgy tax haven [Oliver Bullough/The Guardian]

(Image: Steve, CC-BY-SA)

(via Naked Capitalism)