Tax haven parody plunders a secretive offshore world

Update – “Asset protection” attorney interviewed in The Daily Show’s tax haven parody says the segment’s comedian John Hodgman expressed interest in opening a trust for himself.

The Daily Show's 'Deranged Millionaire' John Hodgman in 'Tropical Plunder'. Screenshot: <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/">The Daily Show</a>

Seems like it would be hard to find humor in offshore tax havens, but John Hodgman, the “Deranged Millionaire” featured on the Jon Stewart Daily Show has pulled it off.

Life is getting harder for the super rich and sleazy, the millionaire is finding, in a Daily Show segment called “Tropical Plunder.” It’s harder, for instance, to find overseas tax havens. “We are a persecuted minority,’’ Hodgman complains, hounded from one tax shelter to the next, as laws tighten. With the Cayman Islands clamping down on offshore money, where can the rich stash their secret cash? 

In Miami, on his Ayn Rand themed yacht, “Going Galt,’’ chatting with OffshoreAlert's David Marchant, Hodgman finds the answer: The Cook Islands, a.k.a. the “Crook Islands,’’ famous for their open embrace of hot money and rock-solid asset protection laws. That’s perfect for Hodgman, who is seeking “a place less moral than the Caymans” for his business of allowing fellow billionaires to shoot panda bears by Skype. 

What follows is a good explanation of how Cook Islands trusts can be used to protect assets of the wealthy from litigation, divorce and pretty much all else.  That’s great for the millionaire, who said he is in constant need of post-marital and pre-marital protection.  Cook Island trusts have been explained already in a joint investigation by ICIJ and The New York Times.  Hodgman picks up on the same themes.  Howard Rosen, a Miami attorney and leading proponent of the trusts, gets a featured role to explain that the Cook laws were written by U.S. attorneys, including himself, and that the United States has no jurisdiction over the islands. 

Great news, concludes Hodgman, who has even a better idea: Opening a tax haven named Hodge Islands, a refuge for fellow tax plunders and their “blood money.”  Better than the Caymans. Better than the Cooks.

Howard Rosen.UPDATE, Friday, April 4, 1pm – Howard Rosen, the Miami attorney featured in the segment, on Thursday issued a press release criticizing the show and promoting himself.  

While saying he took a “beating” in the program, he posted the segment on his website and boasted that he was “chosen as the premier expert in Cook Islands asset protection planning.”   So much so, according to Rosen, that Hodgman even expressed interest in a trust for himself once the camera stopped rolling.   ICIJ is checking with Hodgman to see if that’s true and for his comment.

For those left wanting more after watching Hodgman's Tropical Plunder, ICIJ of course has a trove of information on tax havens of all sorts, and our very own Tax Havens 101 educational clip. Enjoy:

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