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Anonymous bank account:
Can I get one offshore?

Offshore Q&A » Offshore banking » Question 8

Yes and no. Once upon a time, there was the legendary Swiss numbered account, which was about as good as an anonymous bank account gets. Nowadays, the Swiss still call some of their accounts "numbered," but they are no longer anonymous, because Swiss banks are now under legal obligation to verify account holders' identity.

The so-called Sparbuch is another example of an extinct anonymous bank account. Sparbuch was a simple anonymous savings account, available primarily in Austria and neighbouring countries. No name or ID was needed to open or use one. Instead, deposits and withdrawals were recorded in booklet that was attached to the account. Anybody in possesion of the booklet (and the correct code-word) was considered the legal owner of the account.

Both the Swiss numbered account and the Sparbuch were discontinued. In general, anonymous banking facilities are much harder to obtain today than once was the case.

Anyone seeking to open an anonymous bank account, offshore or onshore, will come up against legal requirements compelling banks to identify the account holder. This is mainly the result of a campaign led by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), an organisation that has claimed that an anonymous bank account -- of whatever kind, wherever in the world -- is a useful tool for the laundering of illicit funds.

Although the days of the quick-fix anonymous bank account are over, the practice of anonymous banking itself is not. However, modern-day anonymous banking is the privilege of the knowledgeable few; it requires careful legal planning on a global scale.

An offshore-registered company (one or more) always plays a central part in the construction of any anonymous banking facility. Familiarity with legislation concerning beneficial owner disclosure is also imperative. Many offshore banking havens require that banks identify the actual beneficial owner of any account, so putting a nominee in charge of any account-holding offshore company doesn't always do the trick.

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