With the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) revealed as global master snoops, potentially spying on every phone call, email, and computer, perhaps you have given up on protecting your personal and financial privacy. Or maybe you are one of the millions who thoughtlessly bear all for Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. (Don’t!)
Don’t despair—there is still hope for financial privacy.
There was a time in the United States and other major nations when personal and financial privacy was taken for granted. Your business was your own and nobody else’s. In those long gone days your banker was a person of discretion who would never discuss your financial affairs with anyone, certainly not government agents, without first being served with a court order.
Today every American banker is an official government spy (although they don’t call it that), obliged to report constantly on any “suspicious activities” to FinCEN—the federal money police.
Under the terms of the USA PATRIOT Act, the FBI and other government agents can secretly nose through your finances, files, and accounts and even freeze your assets without ever charging you with a crime. And if your banker tells you that you’re under investigation, he could be fined and jailed.
Promoting fear and waving the scare banner of “terrorism,” many politicians and bureaucrats wrongly claim that privacy per se is bad, that it must be sacrificed because Big Brother government has an unlimited right to know all.
They are absolutely wrong. Privacy is an inherent human right; without privacy not only is our humanity diminished, but we become like so many sheep to be herded by force.
Not content with stripping us bare electronically, now governments want to pry into legal arrangements that have been private for centuries—the names of every “beneficial” party to a trust, for example, and the same for parties to private corporations, partnerships, and family foundations.
But there is still hope for your financial privacy.
There are still countries that not only preserve financial privacy, but do so as a matter of law, punishing those who violate that privacy with fines and jail terms—just the opposite of the U.S. police state attitude.
Switzerland has had just such a law since 1934, even though it has been compromised in recent years. In Austria, firm privacy guarantees are on a par with the country’s constitution and can be repealed only by national referendum. Similar privacy protections are written into the laws of offshore financial centers such as Uruguay, Panama, Singapore, and the Cook Islands.
In most of these privacy havens only a court order can pry open your financial records, and only after notice to you and after a chance is given to defend yourself. And in these offshore jurisdictions, often a U.S. civil court judgment is not honored unless and until an entirely new trial is conducted under local law.
It makes good sense to reorder your wealth and assets so that a reasonable portion is located in an offshore jurisdiction where you know that privacy is guaranteed by law.
That’s the place for your offshore bank account, asset protection trust, or family foundation. You might even consider making that country a base for your business or profession—or a place to call home.
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