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Hidden Money, Covert Operations

Onlineredaktion – In 1995, then-US President Bill Clinton signed an executive order prohibiting American companies from doing business in Iran. When the decision was made to extend Washington’s unilateral economic sanctions against Tehran, multinational companies bemoaned the move and criticized the policy, claiming that American businesses would be punished for Iran’s actions.

Speaking before the CATO Institute in 1998 as the CEO of Halliburton, Dick Cheney complained about the company’s inability to penetrate the Iranian market: “[This] has to do with efforts to develop the resources of the former Soviet Union in the Caspian Sea area. It is a region rich in oil and gas.

Unfortunately, Iran is sitting right in the middle of the area and the [US] has declared […] sanctions against that country. […] Iran is not punished by this decision. There are numerous oil and gas development companies from other countries that are now aggressively pursuing opportunities to develop those resources. That development will proceed, but it will happen without American participation.”

Just a few years after Cheney’s statement, Halliburton was under investigation for doing business in Iran through one of its subsidiaries registered in the Cayman Islands, a well known tax haven utilized by businesses to hide and protect profits offshore. More recently, Halliburton’s ties to Iran were shown to involve more than just an offshore letterbox business with no employees that exploits a loophole in the US sanction policy that “allow[s] foreign subsidiaries of foreign companies to work in Iran as long as they [are] completely independent of their parent in America.”

How was Halliburton able to do business in Iran through a completely independent company with no ties to its headquarters in the US?

The process occurs through a little known practice in European trust law called Hidden Treuhand, which “submits to legal local customs in Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg and Switzerland, but due to globalization, has moved beyond European borders via corporations and individuals, who put it to personal use.”

In a new book titled Hidden Treuhand: How Corporations and Individuals Hide Assets and Money, author Shelley Stark details the history of the Hidden Treuhand, how it operates, who it benefits and its implications for the global economy.

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