An Afternoon in Liechtenstein by Kawther Salam
Last Thursday I visited the Principality of Liechtenstein in the middle of Europe. The small country is ruled by Prince Hans-Adam II since 13 November 1989. It is lodged between Austria and Switzerland in the Rhine valley, it consists of several mountains and the right side of the Rhine valley east of the Rhine.
The principality looks innocent like the tales of Heidi with its alpine beauty, the friendliness of its people, its bright-green scenery, the surrounding mountains covered in green and bright-white snow flecks and the low-hanging clouds slowly traveling along them, clean and well-kept cities and houses. Liechtenstein is about 160 square kilometers in size.
According to the official history of Liechtenstein, several hundred years ago a forefather of the current prince took over the rule of the valley, which was an important way of commerce between the countries south and north of the Alps. The emirate – emirate is the Arab word for principality – belonged at times to the Austro-Hungarian empire, to the Catholic Church, to the (German) Holy Roman empire until it eventually acquired independence as a principality.
Today it is still dependent in some areas of public service on the neighboring countries: the postal service and border issues are managed by Switzerland, Austria assists the emirate with aspects of the judicial system. The postal stamps are renowned worldwide among philatelists, the wine production is of good quality, there is industry of worldwide renown established here, one can see sheep and cows on the green pastures everywhere.
Note: Please click pictures to enlarge.
But the breathtaking beauty makes it all too easy to forget the political dimension of this minuscule principality. The fairytale innocence of the place is only superficial as Liechtenstein is widely known to be one among of a small and select group of countries known as destinations for all kind of filthy hands, fat cats, criminals, dictators, kleptocrats, corrupt rulers and politicians, mass murderers, spooks and questionable companies from around the world who appreciate a discrete place where they can hide the money and wealth plundered from the poor of many nations, whose banks and trusts enjoy full immunity while doing business with the proceeds of war crimes, genocide and plunder worldwide. These banks and trusts, which are discreetly omitted from the postcard version of Liechtenstein, are its true economic backbone rather than agriculture and industry.
In Liechtenstein the maximum tax rate imposed on capital gains is very low, about 20%. This is the lowest tax rate on capital in Europe. In addition, the laws for establishing and holding companies are encouraging to dictatorial regimes and favorable to persons who do not reside in Liechtenstein or do not carry its nationality. In the public discussion there appears to be a misconception about countries such as Liechtenstein or Switzerland, which are called “tax havens”. It would appear that people with legitimate business looking for a more favorable tax regime for their ventures (“tax evasion”) make up only a part, perhaps a minor part, of the clientele of such locations.
Due to the volume of money generated by illicit and immoral activities, is only natural to see organized crime, political crime and the thieves who call themselves “venture capitalists” as the greater part of the business of locations such as Liechtenstein. Among the people known to stash away their loot here is group of Palestinians, of PA and PLO elements. This also motivated me to visit this beautiful country.
Liechtenstein has enacted laws allowing something known as “letter box companies” which provides about 30% of Liechtenstein’s state revenue. Additional revenue is generated from Stiftungen (foundations, trusts) which encourage private companies or persons wishing to establish a legal tax shelter in the emirate of Liechtenstein. Under the laws, any criminal could establish a company managed by lawyers in Liechtenstein – the lawyer does not need to disclose who the real owners of the company or trust are.
Such businesses benefit the thieves, who get to stash away their loot in discretion, and the Emirate of Liechtenstein and the lawyers, who are paid handsomely for their assistance. The victims, who seldom know where all their wealth has gone, are whole nations such as Palestine, millions of victims of financial fraud or organized crime activity or corruption around the world.
I reached the controversial emirate using public transportation (bus), from the city of Feldkirch in Austria. I took the bus first to Schaan in Liechtenstein, and then changed to the Bus to Vaduz, the capital. During my travel I enjoyed listening to the recorded voice announcing the stops – A woman speaking in the (local) Swiss dialect of German. She made me laugh because she let me remember how the residents of Abu Sneineh near Hebron speak Arabic in their own very special way, extending the words in the same way as the lady who lent her voice to the Liechtenstein public transportation.
I laughed a lot during my trip to the small emirate of Liechtenstein, which is supposedly very well known to a number of Palestinian leaders. As the lore has it, certain Palestinian “leaders” have preceded me in honoring this emirate with their presence, to stash away their ill-gotten gains in bank accounts and in trusts managed by respectable lawyers, to check on their account movements and the value of their stocks, always assisted by certain discreet professional Liechtensteiners who know to never loose one single word about the identity of their fat cat clients.
In the case of the Palestinian hoodlums with respectable titles who make Hajj to Liechtenstein rather than to Mecca, they are known, and the provenience of their stashes of looted the money is also known: taxes extorted from the oppressed Palestinian people, the funds donated by the EU and US supposedly provided to poor Palestinians living under the zionist israeli occupation for decades, the wages of treason paid by israel and other zionist concerns to these people for selling out what was never theirs to sell, the scraps which these shameless creatures gather from the tables of the zionists for an illusion of power which will last only as long as they collaborate with israel in the slow genocide of Palestine.
I took some pictures during my trip to “Vaduz”. Many banks and well-known companies are present in Liechtenstein, it appears as if there is a bank or a trust management company on every house in Vaduz. The names and logos of these companies could be seen on walls and doors everywhere and in each direction. It surprised me to see that even residential looking houses in Vaduz were being used by such businesses.
I was not able to buy a meal in Vaduz like those other Palestinians who own stocks and companies. Since I am not in the business of looting my people, I could not afford the restaurant prices 2-3 times of Austria. Touring the city was the only thing which occupied my mind.
A princess From The Gulf Emirates
In the small capital Vaduz, I visited the Museum of the Post Office. When I left the Museum, I saw a princess from the Gulf emirates and her team sitting in one of the luxurious restaurants, several women wearing long black dresses “abayas”, obvious royalty given their attitude, which was different from the “normal” tourists from the gulf seen in Vienna.
They immediately covered their faces when they saw my camera, determined to hide their identities and misleading their nation. These are the same people and their families who fabricate fabulous tales about the “western disbelievers” (kuffar in Arabic) and their forbidden foods and rotten morality which are spread by the Sheikhs speaking at the mosques and at school which bear the names of princesses. What is never spoken about in these tales are the princes and princesses who appear so sanctimoniously before their people, but who come to Europe to stash away their fortunes at the same places used by the worst of criminals, of respectable rulers who frequent casinos and loose fortunes gambling, who inhabit joy-houses for weeks on end, who lay in 5-star hotels passed out for days on alcohol and the drugs which they bring in suitcases, of respectable wives and daughters who spend shovels of money on western food, lifestyle and clothes, eating, drinking and dancing and doing other things which they could never admit in public in their countries.
I had seen enough that afternoon. I finished my tour of the Vaduz and went to wait for the bus to return to Austria.