• Treasure Islands

  • Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World
  • By: Nicholas Shaxson
  • Narrated by: Tim Bentinck
  • Length: 12 hrs and 52 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (166 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Most people regard tax havens as being relevant only to celebrities, crooks and spivs, and mistakenly believe that the main offshore problems are money laundering and terrorist financing. These are only small parts of the whole picture. The offshore system has been (discreetly) responsible for the greatest-ever shift of wealth from poor to rich. It also undermines our democracies by offering the wealthiest members of society escape routes from tax, financial regulation, and other normal democratic controls.

Treasure Islands brilliantly articulates the problem in a completely new way, and exposes the deep corruption that impacts on our daily lives. This is the ugliest chapter in global economic affairs since slavery - and secretive offshore tax havens are at the heart of the trouble.

©2011 Nicholas Shaxson (P)2011 Audible Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Shaxson combines meticulous research with amusing anecdotes, resulting in a very readable account of the murky world of offshore and a strong moral message that the system needs to be changed." ( Financial Times)
"Perhaps the most important book published in the UK so far this year." (George Mombiot, The Guardian)
"At last, a readable - indeed gripping - book which explains the nuts and bolts of tax havens. More importantly, it lays bare the mechanism that financial capital has been using to stay in charge: capturing government policy-making around the world, shaking off such irritants as democracy and the rule of law, and making sure that suckers like you and me pay for its operators' opulent lifestyles." (Misha Glenny, author of McMafia)

What listeners say about Treasure Islands

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing book on tax havens

I learned more things in this book than I typically do in 10 books combined.

Shaxson provides an eye-opening account into the seedy, underground world of offshore finance. Most of the stuff Shaxson discusses is not well known in public and is rarely commented on in mainstream media or newspapers.

For example, were you aware that the two biggest offshore zones are in fact the United Kingdom and the United States? In fact, the state of Delaware is actually the biggest "offshore" location in the United States. It has more incorporated organizations than anywhere else, and some of the laxest regulation. Just take a quick scan of some of the biggest companies in America and you'll find a majority are incorporated in Delaware (Bank of America for instance, or Sallie Mae, Amazon, Pfizer, etc.) It's too many giant companies to be merely coincidental.

The overall picture he paints is both fascinating and frightening, but it seems very possible that something could be done about tax evasion and the looting of poor countries by the rich countries if the main financial centers that aid the businesses in their looting decided to crack down in unison. But for them to ever do that, more people are going to have to understand how the whole system works. It's complicated, but very interesting and Shaxson does a great job explaining every facet of it.

As for this audio recording, I'd recommend getting it and listening to it. But be warned that the guy who does the reading does the most bizarre job I've ever listened to here at Audible. There are multiple times during the course of this book where he reads the same sentence over again. Often he'll stop, and start again with noticeable random pauses mid-sentence. A couple times he stopped reading and I could hear talking in the background. None of this is edited out -- it's like they let him read it all, first time through, and didn't do anything over and didn't bother to edit out the mistakes. Just bizarre, but he still successfully passes along the information of the book in a somewhat entertaining manner (this guy makes up about a thousand voices for the many different people Shaxson quotes from to tell his story).

Pick up this book. I liked it so much I also bought a hard copy to re-read it.

9 people found this helpful

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Important and shocking

Treasure Islands is a book that takes you on a journey into the secret world of finance. Although I have had some experience with the subject before, I was shocked at the scale that tax fraud and secrecy has reached. The book covers both the historical background for how we ended up in todays situation, as well as up to date examples of how the financial crisis was in large caused by tax havens.

This book is a must read, and it should be mandatory for all politicians, students and voters.

2 people found this helpful

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Everybody should read this book. Period.

It's both interesting and depressing to listen how we're just a tiny pieces on a much bigger board that's been played above us. The book is most about offshore but it does cover quite nicely how the free floating currency has its ways to of making the rich more rich and poor even worse off. I know this is a socialistic view and I consider myself more of capitalist, but this is exactly what's wrong in capitalism and somehow needs to be addressed. I don't know what a common man can do about this but to raise awareness and go from there.
The only thing that bothered me a little on this book is the narrator. He's great and easy to listen, but so clearly partial that it bothers at some points when the speaker is so clearly a "villain". And the accents are perhaps sometimes too exaggerated, but overall a very pleasant listen.

2 people found this helpful

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Beyond ideology

Although this book might seem a bit provocative, the argument presented against the offshore business is mostly fact based. I think that it is safe to say that economic policy does not need to be based on ideology anymore, but we can go beyond ideology and base our political opinions on facts.

Offshore business does not help economy as a whole, but it is rather a way to increase the profits of the few and externalize the risks for those, who are doing the productive work and are the true source of the wealth. Also offshoring is not only about tax evasion, but it is mostly, especially in financial sector, a way to go around the laws and regulations that e.g. necessitate the risk management for the banks. Without proper risk management, bankers can make at offshore up to six times more profit than with proper risk management and tax payers at onshore will pay the bill when the bubble bursts.

This is one of those books that can be gladly recommended for anyone, because offshore business is quite timely topic as it was major contributor for the current financial crisis. There is still plenty to discuss and the public awareness of the true nature of offshoring is increasing quite rapidly.

Narration was also quite good and quite British.

1 person found this helpful

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  • M
  • 01-30-12

Stranger than fiction!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is one of the best books that I've read in years. The audio version is outstanding.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The people trying to leave the bastions of tax secrecy were courageous, scared, and compelling.

Have you listened to any of Tim Bentinck’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, but he's very easy to understand.

Any additional comments?

One of the best things that I've read in years.
This book will become increasingly important over the next several years, as economic pressures on individuals and governments prompt people to start asking where all the money went.

2 people found this helpful

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A real eye opener

Would you consider the audio edition of Treasure Islands to be better than the print version?

If you read this with an open mind, you may see the future of global finance and be able to better prepare for what is about to happen.

2 people found this helpful

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  • JB
  • 07-27-22

Bad Narator

Why the narrator felt the need to speak in accent or tone for the car actors in the book, this ruined the experience.

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Lacking basic economics understanding.

The writing is not bad; the topic interesting and deserving more attention. However, the author lacks rudimentary understanding of modern economy and the functions of modern finance. The author seems stuck w the medieval notion that farming and manufacturing are real and productive, while finance mostly a waste. While he makes some valid points, it is impossible to expect a fair opinion on modern finance from him. Even on shore 100% transparent bond/stock secondary trading is probably still a total waste in his mind.

The author also went on endlessly about how off shore enables corruption in poor countries. However, would an African dictator loot his country any less savagely, if Cayman island/Jersey doesn't exist? Personally I strongly doubt that, and I do not see the author present any evidence to the contrary.

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Different but good

the audible words are different than the book. the are extra quotes, information, and different chapters which was confusing. however, the overall information and presentation was very good.

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A lot of anecdotal testimonials from the left side of political spectrum

The book offered interesting insight into tax havens and how the offshore system works. Sadly the author’s political ideology bled through on every issue and read very “testimonially” with constant anecdotal quotes from randos . Would have loved to see more actual data presented to support his opinions. With the advent of crypto the protectionist/capital control agenda he advocates for is going to be less and less practical. My favorite part of the book was the history of Jersey and London.

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  • EEL
  • 04-11-20

Good reading but poor editing

Again, I'll focus not on the book (which is excellent and depressing in equal measure as it makes it clear why global inequality exists and is getting worse) but on the audio. Tim Bentinck is an actor better known to many as David Archer in the long-running BBC Radio 4 soap, The Archers. He is very good at doing the various voices and accents that make it clear when the book is presenting verbatim quotes from various people. But at a certain point the sound editor has just given up and stopped removing bits where Bentinck had started, got the emphasis or accent wrong and stopped, intending that the editor remove the first take and edit to the second. The editor simply hasn't done this, so you get to hear the raw takes in lots of places. Bentinck is otherwise a good reader and actor but has been ill-served by his sound editor here and AUDIBLE SHOULD TAKE NOTE not to give money to whichever fly-by-night firm did the sound editing here -- terrible job! Bentinck's agent might also want to pay some more attention...

8 people found this helpful

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  • Grigor Todorov
  • 02-11-19

Great book, terrible edit

The book is great but the audiobook is terribly edited. Multiple times the reader repeats a sentence and the editors failed to edit the first repeat out.
I quite enjoyed the reader voice acting and different accents, but the audiobook requires another pass and edit to be of the quality I expect from audible.

4 people found this helpful

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  • M
  • 05-25-14

To pay, or not to pay tax ...?

To pay taxes, or not to pay taxes, that is the question ... To which the corporate, international financial and global criminal fraternity have answered with a resounding No. This is a wonderfully dark tale of money eating itself and spewing out more, on which it then feeds and grows, warping the laws and norms of civil society to their own needs to the point that all we can do is willingly, though blindly, throw ourselves into it to feed its relentless greed. A fascinating, inspiring and depressing book - brilliantly narrated, though poorly produced - that has left me angry and thoroughly intrigued. Read it. Then read it again.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Nicky Ramone
  • 01-16-22

Very interesting, well read, poorly edited

I am listening to this book maybe ten years too late as it was published in 2011. Much has changed since then and the tax paying of companied like Facebook, Google and Amazon is much higher on the agenda than it was then. Though as the book shows us, they will definitely find a way to wriggle out of paying a fair share of taxes.

This book therefore serves as a very good, and I assume accurate, history of how we got to where were are now.

I enjoyed listening to it and feel much better informed now.

I wish the narrator had not felt the need to try to render all direct quotes in the national accent of the person quoted, and the producer/editor could have spliced the tape better when some sentences were repeated due to a mistake in intonation on the first take, but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Paul Roberts
  • 05-11-18

Great insight to the world of the rich

Fascinating book and analysis of the offshore world. Would recommend it to any who wants an insight in to how the offshore jurisdictions were created and function

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-12-18

Excellently read...

A real eye opener...excellent....for anyone who wants to know more about Tax Havens...very good reader with creative linguistic style...

1 person found this helpful

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  • D. Burgess
  • 02-08-18

Fascinating and terrible

For all those struggling to join the dots to see the monster as a whole our financial services has become

1 person found this helpful

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  • suyah@hotmail.com
  • 07-26-22

Reading

I quite liked the use of various accents and voices from different parts of the world

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  • DAVE DYSON
  • 06-19-22

An Eye Opener

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book and found the subject matter intriguing and well explained.

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  • Martin
  • 03-17-22

And you thought you knew the country you live in..

This should be common knowledge for all citizens of the world. Nicholas Shaxson lays out, in a logical and coherent way, what is at the heart of many of humanity's problems.
If you are lucky enough to live in a society where you have some choice over the system you live in this issue should be no.1 on the list of issues when you vote.