The Spider’s Web employs an array of experts in offshore tax havens to detail the degree to which the British elite has created a system of shocking inequity. This is a film all ordinary, tax-paying citizens should watch.
Nick Holdsworth
Journalist, writer, author, filmmaker and film and TV industry expert – Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
Published date: June 3, 2018

«At the twilight of the British Empire, bankers, lawyers and accountants from the City of London set up a spider’s web of offshore secrecy jurisdictions that captured wealth from across the globe and funnelled it to London.»

This on-screen statement opens Michael Oswald’s powerful and accessible film.

Voice-over images of the decline and end of the British Empire – troops and native police beating back crowds of demonstrators; tanks on exercises, a human skull mounted on the hull of one – enunciate the film’s timely thesis.

«As British elites saw their wealth, privileges and empire disintegrate, they began to search for a new role in a changing world and they found one: in finance.»

«This is a film about how Britain transformed from a colonial power to a modern financial power and how this transformation has shaped the world we live in,» the narration continues.

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From this firm foundation, the film employs an array of experts in offshore tax havens, banking and accountancy to detail the degree to which the British elite – and its political servants in parliament – has created a system of shocking inequity that is today complicit in many of the world’s global ills.

The Eurodollar market

Post-Imperial decline and a run on the pound prompted the creation of a system of double accounting that allowed the City of London to become the leading centre for international financial transactions.

This was done via a system called the Eurodollar market, which lead directly to the establishment of offshore tax havens.

«The British Empire had sunk, leaving hardly a trace behind, but the City of London had adapted and survived.»

The sophisticated development of an ancient Anglo-Saxon system of secret trusts to hide the owner of assets through a web of complex legal relationships, shell companies and delegates, is neatly summed up by tax fairness campaigner Alex Cobham of the Tax Justice Network :

«It’s about providing a legal space in which you pretend is not taking place in the economy where it really is taking place – so you are taking activity from the place from where it is regulated and taxed and pretending that it is happening elsewhere.»

A parallel development is directly linked to the recent revelations in the Panama Papers: The creation of the so-called ‘Secrecy …

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