One might say that offshore accounts, such as those held by Mitt Romney, are the antithesis of capitalism and downright unAmerican. Shouldn't a presidential candidate, who claims to hold the answers to our economic woes, set the bar a little higher and lead by example?

More than half the world’s money passes almost undetected through a series of financial black holes that shelter it from not only the tax collector but from shareholders, partners and wives, a Tribune-Review investigation found.

Once employed by gangsters such as Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, these secret bank accounts have grown so vast and lawless that some experts tell the Trib they fear the amount of money involved threatens societies from China to Africa, Europe and the United States. World leaders railed against the impact of secret havens during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh three years ago.

“They have caused a huge imbalance in the market,” said John Christensen, director of London-based Tax Justice Network, which was established by the British Parliament in 2003 to examine tax issues worldwide.

“They are the very opposite of capitalism, which is supposed to be based on transparency. They are the shadow economy.”

From Switzerland and a couple of Caribbean islands, the black holes are in 70 or more countries. Christensen said studies by several organizations, including the International Monetary Fund, put the total stash at as much as $25 trillion.

In contrast, the Commerce Department pegs the gross national product of the United States at more than $15 trillion.

The black holes emit no light, according to organizations that study them, including the IRS. They hide owners and assets. Officers and directors are strawmen. Host countries get little, if any, taxes and earn fees mostly by promising to keep everyone in the dark. Few public records exist....

...Offshore accounts can hide wealth and disguise losses. Enron Corp. used off-shore accounts to hide weakness in its balance sheet, records show....

....Americans who hide money illegally in foreign accounts cost the United States up to $70 billion a year, the Congressional Research Service reports...

...“It’s a blatant defiance of the tax law,” said Sybil Smith, acting special agent in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division at Pittsburgh’s IRS office.
“It shifts the tax burden to innocent taxpayers, and is that fair?”...

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