A couple of years ago, the journalist Nicholas Shaxson published a fascinating, chilling book titled “Treasure Islands,” which explained how international tax havens — which are also, as the author pointed out, “secrecy jurisdictions” where many rules don’t apply — undermine economies around the world. Not only do they bleed revenues from cash-strapped governments and enable corruption, but they distort the flow of capital, helping to feed ever-bigger financial crises.
One question Shaxson didn’t get into much, however, is what happens when a secrecy jurisdiction itself goes bust. That’s the story of Cyprus right now. And whatever the outcome for Cyprus itself (hint: It’s not likely to be happy), the Cyprus mess shows just how unreformed the world banking system remains, almost five years after the global financial crisis began.