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The story of Portcullis TrustNet and its birthplace — the Cook Islands — is in many ways the story of the offshore system itself.

It’s a largely invisible world, a curious blend of the parochial and the global that’s made up of the minor personalities and politics inside each offshore jurisdiction — many with populations no larger than a small town.

But by establishing special zones, these tiny provinces have changed the face of international finance and business and impacted law enforcement, tax policies and political and economic transparency across the planet.

The Tax Justice Network, an international advocacy group opposed to tax havens, estimates that about one third of all world wealth is held offshore, and about half of all world trade flows through there.

TrustNet, now headquartered in Singapore and with branch offices in 16 other locations, describes itself as a “one-stop shop,” employing lawyers and accountants who help “high net worth” clients manage their money and business activities.

In this they are not alone: there are dozens of other so-called offshore service providers.

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