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5 Offshore Banking

5 Offshore Banking

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OFFSHORE BANKING

No other resources will be effective in the absence of financial resources and that too, at the right time. Non-availability can cause major damage to international operations. The purpose of offshore banking is to provide international business firms funds at cheaper cost, at a high place and at right time.

Learning value:
After completion of the chapter the reader will learn: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Concept and practice of offshore banking Operation mechanism of offshore banks Attractive centres for offshore banks South East Asian offshore banks Initiatives in India for offshore banking

Any international business unit, whether manufacturing or trading is always looking for funds for their operations. Every company cannot take funds from its home country due to strict regulations or interest cost or taxes. All over the world the business community is in search of locations where their investments are safe and the funds can be taken out without any barriers and invested comfortably for any ventures in any part of the wo9rld. Currently, Mauritius, Malta, Panama, Man’s Island, Cyprus, Seychelles and Hawaii are a few centres attracting offshore banks. Since 2003, the Government of India has permitted banks to set up offshore banking operations in Special Economic Zones. Hence, the system of offshore banking has become part of international business. Offshore banks are banking units set up by foreign banks in territories where the restrictions and regulations are limited and the intervention of the country of location is minimal. Offshore banking units bring foreign

which directly or indirectly encourages and fosters business activity at the center. No incidence of violence or criminal activities. Absence of exchange control 5. Strict and well enforced rules of banking secrecy. A “tax haven” is a place where non-residents can receive income or own assets without paying high taxes. it is a hassle free and safer banking system for saving and borrowing funds for business. . 3.currency funds from non-residents and the international money market. 2. in the form of accepting and placing of funds in foreign currency outside the country of issue. In short. OPERATIONS OF OFFSHORE BANKS Offshore banking centres are an integral part of the foreign currency markets. Panama and Switzerland. Some such places are Bahamas. the operations of banking units set up at these centers comprise foreign currency transactions. High degree of economical and political stability and a political system. and invest them in the host country or in projects set up by the host country in a third country. 4. Availability of supporting infrastructure such as an efficient communications and transportation network. Investor’s confidence due to past credential. Hong Kong. These features encourage various types of business operations some of which are bona fide but most of them generate what has been termed as ‘dirty offshore funds’. Some features of these tax havens are: 1. Bermuda. loan/credits and bonds. ESTABLISHMENT OF OFFSHORE BANKING UNITS The origin of offshore banking units can be traced to the growth of financial activity in tax havens. Low rate or complete absence of income tax on foreign investment and income. the Netherlands. Presence of well developed legal system and professional accounting expertise. Therefore. 6. 8. 7. The functional offshore centers engage in the issue and placement of foreign currency certificates of deposits.

which helps to upgrade local skills and technology and constitutes productive assets to the host country. the host country gains better access to international capital markets. 4. The local staff employed at the centre develops sophisticated international banking skills and this pool of highly trained personnel can be brought in to the host country to attain a faster growth level. ROLE OF OFFSHORE BANKS AND INVESTMENTS In today’s highly integrated global network international Offshore Financial Centers (OFCs) have come to play a vital role in facilitating investment worldwide. which will be able to induce more and more reputed foreign banks to set up banking units in its territory. An offshore centre exists for comfort and convenience. 2. deposits are not subject to statutory reserve requirements. The functional offshore centers contributes to the foreign exchange income of the host country through local operating expenditures. which is the cross border intermediation of funds and provisions of services by banks residing in . Indirectly. due to their connections with well known international banks These foreign currency funds can be lent to the host countries or invested in onshore projects or even projects in a third country. Once an offshore centre consistently offers an attractive package of incentives. The presence of functional units speeds up the communication and transport network in the host country. Bank transactions are mostly exempted from tax or treated under a favourable fiscal regime and they are free of interst and exchange control restrictions. 5. In many cases. and license fees/taxes recovered from the offshore units. such as rent paid on leased property. OFCs are jurisdictions where offshore banks are exempted from a wide range of regulations. 1.These centers contribute to the economic development of the host country in the following ways. Specially. offshore banks are exempted from regulatory scrutiny with effect to liquidity or capital adequacy. the above benefits will accrue to the host county. The offshore banking units can raise foreign currency loans and bonds for the host country at reasonable interest rates. The onshore banking industry in the host country is compelled to improve its efficiency and skills in order to retain its competitive edge. salary paid to local staff. An important activity in OFCs is offshore banking. 3. which are normally imposed on onshore institutions.

and Over the Counter (OTC) trading in derivatives for risk management and speculative purposes. increasingly competitive and well-regulated financial markets. With competition under prudential supervision and capital account convertibility being increasingly adopted. which are operating in liquid. They include transactions between banks and original depositors. the distinction between onshore and offshore banking is progressively disappearing in industrialized countries. the under writing of bonds. but at the same time they are not subsidiaries. They exploit the risk return trade off by being more profitable than onshore banks and in many instances they have more leverage. Offshore banking is an increasingly attractive alternative to heavily regulated financial markets of emerging economies. Foreign currency loans and deposits. Offshore banking is carried out typically through offshore establishments that are offshore branches. In Aisa. offshore interbank markets developed after 1968 when Singapore lauched the Asian Dollar Market (ADM) and introduced the Asian Currency Units (ACUs) and Japan established the Japanese Offshore Market (JOM).OFCs to non-residents. OFFSHORE BANKING – METHOD OF OPERATION Offshore banks deal mostly with other financial institutions and transact wholesale business in currencies other than that of the country hosting the OFC. Foreign currency transactions form the bulk of offshore banking operations. Offshore branches are legally indistinguishable from parent banks onshore. OFCs IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES AND EMERGING ECONOMIES In the developed countries. between banks and ultimate borrowers. Underwriting of bonds floated in international capital markets is also a significant part of offshore banking activities. OFCs appear to be losing their attractiveness and appeal for financial institutions. Offshore activities may also take place through what are called parallel-owned banks. . which facilitate intra-branch transfers. Offshore banks are mainly engaged in three types of transactions. These are banks established in different jurisdictions having the same owner(s). and between banks themselves on the inter bank market.

The Asian Dollar market (ADM) in one of the premier offshore banking centres in Asia.The ADM was an alternative to London Eurodollar market for the investment of oil surpluses from Indonesia and Malaysia and ACUs enabled local banks to engage in international transactions under a favourable tax and regulatory environment. another category of same opportunities as the full and restricted banks in . with a view to facilitate Singapore’s goal to become an international financial centre through the entry of more foreign banks. the fifth largest trader in derivatives and the ninth largest offshore lending centre. Restricted banks may engage in the same range of domestic branch and cannot accept Singapore dollar savings accounts and Singapore dollar fixed deposits of less than Singapore $ 250.000 from nonbank customers. The financial service sector is supported by sound economic and financial fundamentals and attractiveness as a base for financial institutions. Restricted banks III. There are three categories of commercial banks in Singapore: I. This has been aided by its geographical location in a fast growing area that bridges the gap between the time zones of the North American and European financial markets. Offshore banks Full banks are allowed to carry out the full range of banking services under the Banking Act. a skilled labour force and significant government incentives. Singapore is the fourth largest foreign exchange trading centre in the world. political and financial stability. MALAYSIA AND MAURITIUS Singapore Singapore is an established financial centre. Full banks II. and the Singapore International Monetary Exchange (SIMEX) has grown into one of the world’s leading derivatives exchanges. In 1973. The STOCK Exchange of Singapore (SES) is a leading stock market in Asia. OFFSHORE FINANCIAL CENTRES IN SINGAPORE.

Various incentives have been given to encourage the development of ACUs. By the end of November 1998. In Singapore. the most important of which is that ACUs face a tax on profits of only 10% compared with the standard corporate rate of 27% and are not subject to reserve and liquidity requirements. offshore banking is carried out by separate bookkeeping entities known as Asian Currency Units. there were 104 offshore banks in Singapore. . • 1989 – A concessionary 10% tax rate was granted on income from international oil trading activities. nor can they open more than one branch. offshore banks cannot accept any interest-bearing deposits from persons other than approved financial institutions. ACUs do not have the right to incur assets and liabilities in Singapore dollars but can engage in all types of banking transactions in other currencies. ACUs have functioned in the region primarily as a centre for routing capital from markets in Europe. corporate tax of ACU on interest earnings from overseas loans reduced from 40% to 0%. • 1990 – Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) raised the ceiling on foreign ownership of shares in local banks to 40% from 20%.business transacted. • 1980 – Stamp duty on ACU offshore general reinsurance business granted 10% concessionary tax rate. By 2003 the number of banks crossed 120. their scope of business in the Singapore dollar retail market is slightly more limited. interest received by non-resident holders of approved Asian dollar bonds exempted from tax. In the domestic market. all of which were branches of foreign banks. Important measures to promote offshore banking in Singapore include: • 1973 – Offshore banking licenses issued to seven foreign banks. • 1976 – Non resident deposits with ACUs and approved Asian dollar bonds held by non-residents exempted from Singapore estate duty. • 1983 – ACUs granted 5 year tax holiday for all income derived from syndicated offshore loans arranged in Singapore. • 1980 – Stamp duty on ACU offshore loan agreements and Asian dollar bond certificates abolished. North America and the Middle East to the fast growing regions of Asia. • 1979 – Income earned from offshore general reinsurance business granted 10% concessionary tax rate.

offshore insurance and insurance related business. . an offshore bank has to maintain strict secrecy in the affairs of its customers. incorporating and registering of offshore companies as well as for setting up of Labuan trust companies. The Offshore Banking Act 1990 provides a regulatory framework for offshore banking operations in Labuan. Offshore banks are expected to observe a strong self-regulatory code of conduct which places emphasis on ‘knowing your customer. offshore trust and fund management. is the single regulatory authority with the following roles and functions: • To be responsible for setting national objectives. Thailand and Vietnam. specially in offshore banking. • To supervise the activities and operations of the offshore financial service industry in Labuan and to process applications to conduct business in the Labuan IOFC. many of the investors and joint venture partners avail of offshore facilities to invest in the mega projects of South Asia and South East Asia.offshore banks started investing huge money in other Asian countries like India. the maximum limit for offshore banks for Singapore dollar credit facilities at any one time to non-bank residents was raised from S$ 200 million to S$ 300 to S$ 1 billion.• 1992 – Stock Exchange of Singapore (SES) granted membership to seven foreign brokerage houses. As confidentiality is the hallmark of an offshore financial centre. With a view to creating a more level playing field for local and foreign banks.’ The Labuan Offshore Financial Services Authority (LOFSA) established in 1996. policies and priorities for the orderly development and administration of the Labuan IOFC. allowing them to trade directly on the local market. with a view to boosting Singapore as a financial centre. • 2002 – Offshore transactions became equivalent to domestic transactions. Malaysia Malaysia established an International Offshore Financial Centre (IOFC) in Labuan in 01991. • 2006. • To be responsible for the promotion and development aspects and recommend new measures to the government to speed up growth and development of the Labauan IOFC. In 2004. Sri Lanka. Indonesia.

Offshore transactions are normally conducted with non-residents and in currencies other than the Mauritius Rupee. Mauritius Mauritius is fast becoming an international financial and business centre. immovable properties and taking of loans and placing of deposits. • No withholding tax for dividends paid by an offshore company.000 (USD 8000). distribution from an offshore trust. The island is becoming an attractive . and offshore trading companies enjoy a low tax regime with a rate of only 3% of their net income of RM 20. In Labuan no tax is imposed on the income of offshore companies that are non-trading companies. The foreign currency accounts held with the offshore banks are not considered as external accounts and are not subject to exchange control measures. investment holdings and international trading. shares. They can receive fees and commissions related to guarantee in Ringgit. Other benefits and incentives include: • No tax on offshore companies carrying out offshore non-trading activities such as holding of securities.• To administer and enforce offshore financial services legislation and work with the offshore players in Labuan to promote offshore financial services. interest earned on deposits with offshore banks. • Exemption from paying stamp duty on all offshore business transactions. Offshore companies can continue to transfer funds freely to and from their accounts outside Malaysia without approval from the central bank of Malaysia. Mauritius has focused its offshore business on specific areas such as investment funds. Offshore companies are given a non-resident status for exchange control status. or estate duty. royalties received from an offshore company by a non-resident. The holding requirement of one year is not applicable to assets in Ringgit held in collateral by the offshore banks for credit facilities granted to residents. • No inheritance. and interest earned on loans to Malaysians. • Double tax treaty agreements signed with over 40 other countries and investment guarantee agreements with 50 countries. death. The payments of existing loans and guarantees in foreign currency by Malaysian residents to the offshore banks do not require prior approval from the Central Bank. The offshore banks are also allowed to issue financial and nonfinancial guarantees to residents in Ringgit. The Labuan IOFC operates in a free exchange control environment.

International Financial Services. Both the volume and range of business undertaken by offshore banks have registered sustained progress. Various factors have contributed to the attractiveness of Mauritius as an OFC which include: • Exemption from compliance with the Exchange Control Act. interest rates and other restrictions normally applied to business of domestic banks. the offshore financial services sector was officially set up with the proclamation of two acts of parliament. and is being considered as a gateway for investment into India. Offshore business can be conducted through the follo9wing entities: an ordinary status company. supervising and developing non-banking offshore business in Mauritius. a trust. In 1989. The MOBA Act of 1992 provides fro a whole range of approved offshore activities which include Offshore Funds Management. set up in 1992 under the Mauritius Offshore Business Activities (MOBA) Act 1992. Various factors have registered sustained progress. the Indian subcontinent and the African region. The Mauritius Offshore Business Activities Authority (MOBAA). eleven offshore banks of international standing operate in Mauritius. Mauritius enjoys international exposure as a domicile for emerging market funds. An offshore business activity is defined as an activity carried on from within Mauritius with non-residents and in foreign currencies. International Employment Services. Operational Headquarters. • Low income tax rate of 5 percent on all offshore profits. Currently. International Data Processing and Information Technology Services. an international company. .destination for offshore fund structuring and investment vehicles. namely the Mauritius Offshore Business Activities Act and the Offshore Trusts Act. International Consultancy Services. Shipping and Ship Management. • Exemption from credit. International Assets Management. and Offshore Insurance. • Free repatriation of profits without further taxation. The MOBA Act 1992 sets out the broad parameters for the conduct of offshore business. • Freedom to conduct all legitimate banking and other financial business with non-residents. International Trading. In 1992. is entrusted with the task of licensing. offshore banks were allowed to be set up in Mauritius and subsequently the incorporation of offshore companies was allowed. Offshore Pension Funds. Aircraft Financing and Leasing: International Licensing and Franchinsing. or a partnership.

The main requirements of such a policy are given below. their operative mechanisms. This is very important. stamp duty. customs duty. OFFSHORE FINANCIAL CENTERS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INDIA A synthesis of the role and evolution of OFCs in select countries. • Exemption from several prudential regulations including reserve requirements limitations on investments. Exemption from customs duty on imported office equipment. • Conducive fiscal regime. No capital gains tax. etc. Double taxation avoidance treaty with a number of countries. • No withholding of income tax on non-resident depositors in OFCs. etc. • Absence of exchange control or minimal control. No estate duty or inheritance tax is payable on the inheritance of shares in an offshore entity. limitations on acquisitions of immovable property. inter alia. and at the same time contribute towards the country’s export efforts. Certain common facilities/exemptions/concessions have been worked out to form offshore banking in India. No withholding tax on interest payable on deposits raised from nonresidents by offshore banks. With the Government having announced the policy of promoting Special Econ9mic Zones (SEZs) which would. • Stringent banking secrecy rules. estate tax. no income tax. capital gains or wealth taxes on individuals. regulatory framework and privileges delineated in the preceding sections highlight various factors that contribute to the attractiveness of OFCs. it is pertinent to take into account the factors highlighted above that have contributed to successful OFCs around the world. Expatriate staff is subject to a concessionary personal income tax rate. serve to attract world class investors. inheritance tax. such as minimal taxation or low tax jurisdiction with an extensive web of bilateral tax treaties. . as it is necessary to create a policy environment relating to finance and banking which is conducive as also internationally competitive.• • • • • • • • Exemption from stamp duty on documents relating to offshore business transactions. Exemption from stamp duty on documents relating to offshore business transactions.

For instance.Minimum formalities for incorporation. The Eastern Carribean Central Bank does not supervise the offshore sector. N/a Antigua & Barbados Offshore Minimum banks may be paid in legally capital is US established $ 1 milion. Adequate legal framework that safeguards the integrity of principal agent relations. All four domestic banks offer offshore banking services. • Conducive regulatory framework – a separate banking act to provide a regulatory framework covering the operations of banks and financial institutions in the SEZs. the Offshore banking licence for the setting up of a branch or subsidiary. Offshore Offshore banks have a banks are 50 year regulated by reprieve from the Supervisor taxes on of Banking . • • Offshore Banks: Regulatory Framework in Selected Offshore Financial Centres. Offshore Financial Centre Activities and Restrictions Prudential Regulations Tax Privileges Role of Regulators Anguilla Both private and public companies may operate onshore and offshore. under the Licensing Offshore banks are under the oversight of the offshore Finance Committee chaired by the Governor with representatives No taxes are of both the levied Government and private sector.

There defined as information Finance. The Eastgern or other carry out Caribbean wealth tax on banking Offshore Central Bank individuals. which has the ability to carry out onsite inspection. directors. and officers with satisfactory evidence that the latter have the necessary international education Business and and Trust Centre (IBC) experience. business in banks must does not currencies submit supervise the other than quarterly offshore those of returns and sector. Deposits Locally Taxation is Offshore from non incorporated minimal banks must be bank offshore and licensed by the . Caricom an annual audit must be submitted to the Inspector of Banks in the Ministry of Finance.Bahrain includes information on shareholders. Corporations Act (1982) and recent and the and are financial Ministry of profits. are no income corporations on the capital gains. licensed to applicant.

insurance They are sub scheme is in subject to place for all regular commercial reporting banks. A ownership deposit structure. are excluded semiannual from LOLR and annual support. The requirements BMA has the to the ability to Baharain provide lender Monetary of the last Authority resort (LOLR) (BMA) on a facilities to monthly. ACUs are ACU are ACUs must be exempt from taxed at a licensed by the several concessionary MAS. which to disclose also supervises fully their them.institutions are allowed only if they are atleast equivalent to US$ 50. percent them. basis. Offshore institutions are required BMA. cannot offer current accounts. Prudential requirements are applied on a consolidated basis. onshore banks quarterly.000. most natbly (normal Inspections on the reserve corporate tax the accounts requirements rate is 26 of the ACUs . Singapore Typically offshore banking is operated through Asian Currency Units onshore banks must follow the same rules. Offshore banks cannot extend loans to residents of Baharain. which prudential rate of 10 also supervise regulations.

some of the the Banking limitations on Act was credit amended to facilities allow foreign (limits to a regulators to single inspect the borrower and Singaporean related party branches of or parties) banks under Foreign their ACUs are oversight.(ACUs). These are operational units whose function is to conduct business in the Asia Dollar market. MAS has limitations on ability to act investments. ACU may also be operated by onshore commercial banks and merchant banks. required to provide a guarantee from their parent institutions ensuring liquidity on demand to the ACU should it run into difficulties. ACUs are required to . In these cases. They (normally 6 percent). In 1996. as lender of limitation on lasat resort. acquisition of but not an immovable obligation to property and do so. are carried out percent) the There is no on a regular minimum withholding basis. There is liquid asset or income tax no formal ratio on non deposit (normally not resident insurance less than 18 ACUs scheme. The percent) depositors. ACUs are distinct accounting entities separately licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) ACUs accept deposits and make loans in foreign currencies and are prohibited from doing business denominated in Singapore dollars.

But in real terms. State Bank Of India. facilities to Singapore non-bank customers must be less than SGD 50 million India as offshore banking. both investing and borrowing segments are also aware of the mechanism. They have developed systems and expertise to handle offshore operations. an emerging sector The concept and practices are not new to Indian banks. detailed have more financial than one statements to location (no the MAS on branches) a monthly Total credit basis. Indian public sector banks such as Bank Of India. operate savings provide account. the awareness has been created while news items started appearing on overseas banking units (OBU) could be set up in special economic zones (SEZ) without mandatory requirements of SLR (Statuary Liquidity Ratio). .cannot accept time deposits of less than SGD 250000. Punjab National Bank and Bank Of Baroda already had operations in other countries. The customers.

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