One of the World’s Best Offshore Havens


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By Bob Bauman

As other nations relax bank secrecy, the island nation of Singapore has embraced it. If you are looking for strong banking and business laws in a highly-regulated environment and ultra-secure storage, look no further. This is one of the world’s best havens.

Singapore has beefed up account-secrecy protections, changed trust laws, opened the world’s most secure private vaults, and allowed foreigners who meet minimum wealth requirements to buy land and become residents.

Now that other countries like Switzerland and Liechtenstein, have relaxed their centuries-old tradition of banking secrecy, Singapore has truly come into its own. The city-state has attracted just about every major private bank, including many Swiss banks. Indeed, the number of private banks operating in Singapore has nearly doubled, to 35, in the past six years.

Singapore has tough banking-secrecy laws. Despite meeting the OECD’s tax information-exchange agreement requirements, banking secrecy remains enshrined in Singapore law, with heavy penalties for wrongful disclosure of bank clients’ financial details or accounts.

Ranking at the top of every list for good governance and market freedoms, Singapore also holds the world’s ninth largest foreign exchange reserves. It has become a magnet for significant sums of southeast-Asian money looking for a home in the stable Singapore dollar.

The country has grown into a premier investment and business haven, comparable to Hong Kong, London, New York, or Tokyo. While Hong Kong sees itself as a financial gateway to expanding China, Singapore is the gateway to all of Southeast Asia. It enjoys a remarkably open and corruption-free environment, and offers stable prices.

It has the world’s fourth largest foreign exchange center and a number of companies with direct ties to Burma, Vietnam, Thailand, and other neighboring economies are listed on the Singapore Exchange, a convenient and lucrative way to invest in regional growth.

Because private Singaporean banks generally do not open bank accounts for U.S. citizens individually, an alternative is to open an account in the name of an offshore company or trust.

Private Singaporean banks will also work with an intermediary who submits account applications—although they do require account applicants to appear personally at their offices as part of the application process.

In 2010 “the world’s ultimate safe,” as it has been called, opened in Singapore. It is home to a one-of-a-kind facility that perfectly typifies modern Singapore—a place with more gold, art, antique cars, and fine wines than nearly any other place in the world.

Armed guards patrol it 24 hours a day. State-of-the-art security systems with lasers detect the slightest motion. The systems are so advanced that the entire facility has been built to survive a major earthquake and even a plane crash.

It’s essentially a high-tech warehouse, spanning the length and width of five football fields, replete with seven-ton doors. The valuables—be they colored diamonds, gold bars, rare coins, or Monets—are stored in always-locked vaults with reinforced walls.

However, clients need only report what general category their collectables fall under, such as wine, art, cars, and the like.

Visiting is easy and private. The facility’s staff will pick you up by limousine at any time, day or night, from the nearby airport. Your anonymity is of the utmost importance.

Similar to renting a safety-deposit box at a bank, no one knows what items go into it. All you need to give is a code that indicates the broad nature of the item. There’s no value, no ownership, no inventory list.

To make sure nothing illegal passes through its doors, the facility has a security detail that ensures every item goes through cargo scanners. However, all the details are kept confidential.

Convenience and privacy, however, are only part of the attraction. If you have art or an antique car to sell, you could save big on taxes.

This is a tax-free zone, and any transactions that take place here are not subject to Singapore taxes or import duties of any kind. While U.S. citizens are subject to tax on their worldwide income, that is not the case in most other countries.

So, for a French citizen to sell a Picasso worth $10 million to a Hong Kong citizen, transferring the asset would be a legal and potentially significant tax-saving strategy.

And this is exactly why it has become such a hot-spot for those in the know.

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