This paper introduces the concept of a Luxury Freeport to describe a novel form of offshore where art and other high-end goods can be stored indefinitely without tax and duty-payments being made. The paper makes three key contributions to our understanding of these new actors in the global political economy. First, it conceptualizes Luxury Freeports as part of what has been called the ‘offshore world’, showing that over the course of the last decade these previously understudied sites have become part of an evolving global ecosystem of tax avoidance. Second, the paper attributes the rise of this new form of offshore to meso-level spillover effects within the offshore world itself: this new model of offshore was born from a combination of the competitive ‘push’ of the rapid spread of Open Customs Warehouses at the turn of the century and the investment ‘pull’ of large pools of money needing new investment outlets in the wake of the recent multilateral effort to clamp down on banking secrecy. Third, it examines how the development and diffusion of the Luxury Freeport model has been shaped and constrained by this clampdown. Navigating the regulatory push against offshore and in an effort to mainstream and legitimize their activities, newer Luxury Freeports have aligned themselves both with the exclusive and high cultural capital environment of the art world and the ecosystem of specialized services offered by the wealth management industry.
Bibliographical noteEpub ahead of print. Published online: December 10, 2020.
- Financial geography