Reposted from The Economist
From: Mirkwood Capital To: High-net-worth rulers
“IT IS bad enough to be kicked out of power by an ungrateful mob or a jumped-up colonel. Imagine, though, that after years of public service you and the presidential family are condemned not just to exile in fun-loving Saudi Arabia but also to penury. Unfortunately, the latest reports (see article) are all too true: do-gooding lawyers, interfering officials and vengeful successors pose a growing threat to your savings.
The good news is that we at Mirkwood are here to help. We recognise your hard work as “chief executive” of a benighted nation, the tough decisions you had to take to deal with mendacious critics, the threats you faced from treacherous underlings. Did Bill Gates ever put his life on the line the way you did when you shot your brother? Did Jack Welch have to fill out the ballot papers for tens of millions of illiterate tribesmen? You deserve a decent “retirement fund” in return for your sacrifices. And here is our four-point guide to keeping it safe.
For clients still in country we recommend a renewed emphasis on complexity. Money made in “legitimate” businesses abroad, such as banks, property and tourism, should be mixed up with traditional income—commissions on arms sales, energy deals and the like. This makes it harder for meddlesome investigators to untangle your well-earned assets from those that in theory belong to taxpayers (joke!).
The best protection for assets of all kinds is anonymity. They should be kept in offshore companies and trusts, in multiple jurisdictions with unclear ownership and minimal reporting requirements. Unfortunately, politicians are making these arrangements increasingly difficult to maintain. The G8 Summit in June is likely to see a new push to limit shell companies, and force existing ones to reveal their beneficial ownership. Mirkwood, with the help of its public-relations subsidiary, Schmoez and DeSeeve, is taking every opportunity to remind decision-makers of the importance of privacy to the high-net-worth individuals who support so many of them. Later this year we will hold a fund-raising dinner for a politician from Delaware, home to 917,000 people and 945,000 obviously legitimate but gloriously impenetrable companies.
Secrecy is your friend. Sadly, Luxembourg and Switzerland, once paragons of discretion, have buckled under pressure from the United States and European Union, but it is still possible to conduct transactions away from prying eyes. We continue to offer advice to clients, with an emphasis on emerging-economy jurisdictions such as Dubai, Shanghai and Mumbai, and to use helpful judicial systems to ward off intrusive journalists. Britain has some vicious and unscrupulous lawyers who can spot a libel in any sentence (even this one).
Lastly, conspiracy helps. Try to sabotage the transfer of power: the more turmoil follows your departure, the less attention will be paid to your assets. Try to involve possible successors in your business dealings. That way, nobody will look.
Providence and prudence
And if the worst should happen? In the good old days of the cold war, the Americans would send a jet to whisk away an ally, their family and their shoes. Alas, the Mubaraks were not given the Marcos treatment. But the Saudis still accommodate displaced autocrats, and we at Mirkwood offer an emergency service to move money out of vulnerable jurisdictions within hours. Remember, even if you can’t savour your country’s gratitude, you can at least hang on to some if its wealth.”
From the print edition: Leaders
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