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Banking Passports

If your banking passport is not good for anything else but banking, it's a bad banking passport.

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LAWRENCE BUCKLEY
for offshore-fox.com

So-called "banking passports" -- that is second passports in another name used to hold assets confidentially -- deserve special attention in this article. I hope to correct a few misconceptions about these.

As it is commonly understood, the very concept of a "banking passport" is in my mind fundamentally flawed. It suggests that the reason for owning the passport is purely for the purpose of banking in another name and, consequently, virtually any passport will do. This is wrong.

This common misconception has of course proved invaluable to those who are looking for some way to sell useless cheap passports from third world hell holes which provide virtually no opportunity for travel.

To give an example, I have been told in the past of an "amazing opportunity" which allows applicants to receive a passport from Niger, complete with instructions on how to use it to open a bank account. "Amazing opportunity?" I think not.

African passports, or any other passports that you cannot use to travel on, are simply useless as banking passports for any serious practitioner of financial privacy.

To begin with, carrying two passports with different names across a border -- even if 100% legal -- is asking for a great deal of trouble. Do not expect the average border guard to be well versed in those aspects of the legal system that enable you to obtain such an alternative identity document.

Furthermore, common sense clearly dictates that any banking official is going to look hard at documentation emanating from some exotic and backward location. Banks have their due diligence responsibilities nowadays and anything unusual can arouse suspicion -- whether founded or not.

Upon account opening, bankers will now also routinely take a photocopy of your passport out of sight; this enables them to scan the pages border entry stamps and build up a picture of your travel itinerary. This again is done in line with the banks' due diligence procedures (customers who tend to spend their vacations in North Korea, Columbia and the more racy parts of the Caribbean may be singled out for special scrutiny).

However, it will not be the variety of exotic entry stamps in your no-good-for-travel "banking" passport that you'll have to worry about; rather, it will be the lack of any! I have no advice for those who find themselves in the sticky situation of trying to explain at this point how they managed to enter, say, Switzerland without the required visa in their African passport.

Technicalities aside, and to return to our example, ask yourself the following fundamental question: are you sure that you would wish to hold your hard-earned assets with a passport from an impoverished African nation like Niger?

Even if you do get an account opened one way or another, your risk having your account frozen later if your bank thinks something might be amiss (a profitable option for them). If, on the other hand, they happily accept such documentation, are you sure that you really want to bank with them?

Having said all this, a passport that incorporates a legal name change is a bullet-proof asset protection strategy. The danger lies in cutting corners. A passport for asset protection should be a lifetime investment; it should not be done on the cheap, or through an unprofessional intermediary.


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Welcome | Second Passports: Who Needs Them? | Financial Privacy and Security
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