The Offshore Investigation Vehicle (2017—2018) was an international corporate structure set up by the Demystification Committee to collectively model offshore financial practices. It operated as a guide and a shield, providing access to a hidden world of insiders’ knowledge while guaranteeing the secrecy of the actions undertaken there.
Engaging directly with an inherently inaccessible system of tax havens, legal loopholes, offshore banking, service providers, human proxies and corporate puppets, the Offshore Investigation Vehicle aimed to grasp the inner workings and material forces at play in offshore finance through their collective use. The corporate structure existed through the paperwork created by the agents appointed in its formation, the proxies involved in its obfuscation and the shareholders invested in its operations.
At the top was Empire Management Limited, a UK private limited company directed by Francesco Tacchini and Oliver Smith, members of the Demystification Committee. Offshore, Empire Management Limited controlled Invest. One Limited, a Seychelles International Business Company (IBC) directed by Mark Andrew Derek Farmer, a puppet director. MAD Farmer was hired by an offshoring agent contracted by the Demystification Committee, under the guise of directors of Empire Management Limited. As he privately ceded control of the offshore company back to them, the Demystification Committee gained beneficial ownership of its asset: a bank account held in Puerto Rico with Euro Pacific Bank.
Taken at face value, the companies and people within the Offshore Investigation Vehicle are unrelated. Carefully crafted by agents through the use of human proxies and convenient mistakes (Offshore Investigation Vehicle, p. 87) as well as concealed by Seychelles law, which forbids disclosure of information on any IBC, the corporate structure is known at varying degrees to agents, proxies, shareholders and authorities.
However, in a grotesque inversion of the concealing practices observed in similar ventures, the Offshore Investigation Vehicle built absolute accountability through the display of ‘resolutions’ outlining its intents. These are publicly available at Companies House, the registrar of companies of the United Kingdom, a mandatory digital archive for any UK private limited company and a virtual gallery for the paperwork of Empire Management Limited.
After its setup, the Offshore Investigation Vehicle was opened for others to join: shares were issued and meetings called in order to decide on businesses. At the first general meeting, the shareholders and the Demystification Committee agreed that any operation initiated to explore tax havens be grotesquely self-referential, challenging disheartening tax-justice narratives and populist celebrity focus which shape the mainstream discussion of the topic. Three such operations were initiated:
• the launch of Offshore Spring/Summer 2018, a collection of beachwear to be sold online. The apparel’s diagrams and patterns visually reveal the business’ own effort to evade taxes due on sales revenue, with the ultimate goal to redistribute the tax savings to the shareholders.
• the publication of The Offshore Economist, pursuing an aesthetic of offshore through a shifting form and content, including fiction, legalese, poetry and corporate financial tricks.
• the dismantling of the Offshore Investigation Vehicle within a year of its formation, a threshold after which the accounts of Empire Management Limited, as a UK company, are due. Dubbed as KO UK, the operation prevents details on potentially illicit offshore operations from becoming public.