"Tax shelter." Just because some resident of the Cayman Islands clicked on this blog this week, marking the 113th country to have readers do so, doesn't mean I have money squirreled away there.
But that's what the Caribbean islands located south of Cuba are famous for, even figuring in the last U.S. election when it was revealed Mitt Romney has millions sitting down there.
He's not alone. The tiny islands are the world's fifth largest banking center, with more than $1.5 trillion stashed there in 279 banks. There are only about 54,000 residents. A British overseas territory since 1670, it's been tax free for a long time. It prints its own money, with the rate fixed at equal to $1.25 US.
The islands were discovered by Columbus on his fourth voyage in 1503, and named Las Tortugas for the many turtles. Sir Francis Drake renamed the islands in 1586 for the caiman alligator. Uninhabited until the 1700s, slaves were imported to work the plantations, until slavery was abolished in 1834--a census at that time showed more than 950 slaves owned by 116 families.
While it's a tax shelter for millions, it is unsheltered from nature. Hurricane Ivan in 2004 literally wrecked the islands. But it's beautiful, its beaches and scenery attracting tourists like the banks attract millionaires avoiding taxes. For photos and more, see the website.
It was part of Jamaica until 1962 when Jamaica became a commonwealth realm. The flag adopted at that time is the British ensign with the Cayman coat of arms added. Now, if I could just get the blog reader down there to use some tax free money to finance this blog, we could move there, except in hurricane season.