Private empires: the development of offshore commercial and financial services in tax havens, 1955-1979

Simon Michael Mollan, Kristine Sævold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the development of offshore commercial and financial services in tax havens between 1955-1979. The geographic locus of this paper is the Caribbean region, mainly focusing on the island tax havens that had been part of the British empire prior to decolonization. The article examines the relationship between the development of tax havens and decolonisation, and explores questions of international capital movement, the institutional structure of tax havens, the development of banking and commercial services in tax havens, and other offshore business activities. The article presents new data on international capital investment and capital movement, and provides empirical evidence in relation to the structure and function of businesses located in tax havens. This evidence is used to engage with emerging debates with reference to the history of tax havens: specifically, the nature of capital movement and the importance of beneficial ownership rights, and the relationship between the (re)location of business to tax havens and the mitigation of political risk and instability. We demonstrate that the development of tax havens in this period was a consequence of substantial innovation by business and finance to create advantageous environmental conditions in relation to taxation and governance. This was supported by an isomorphic process that spread similarly favourable regimes of law and regulation between different tax havens, as well as the development of a range of supportive commercial and financial services. We conclude by discussing the implications for future research on this topic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnterprise & society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2025

Bibliographical note

This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the University’s Research Publications and Open Access policy.

Cite this