Is the most isolated island in the world, where there are only penguins, a tax haven? – 09/04/2022

54º 25’S, 3º20’L
Cape Circumcision
Bouvet Island (Norway Territory), Antarctica

It is the most isolated island in the world. It is more than 2 thousand kilometers from any human settlement, and was only discovered in the 18th century, only to be lost again for decades.

Yet, apparently, it has become a tax haven. Even if the only existing institution on site is a scientific station with a capacity for six people to spend a maximum of four months.

The oldest mention of the island is from 1739, when French navigator Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier discovered it on the first day of the year. At that time, the Catholic Church celebrated, on January 1, the circumcision of Christ (today the date is remembered only by the Orthodox). Therefore, the peninsula seen by the French was named Cape Circumcision.

Portrait of Bouvet Island on Instagram @ey8mm

Image: @ey8mm/Instagram/Reproduction

Unfortunately, the explorer failed to register your location (New Year’s Eve hangover?). As a result, successive expeditions failed in the following decades to try to reach the place again.

It was not until 1808 that an English whaler located the island. In 1825, another ship of the same company returned and her captain christened her Liverpool. He spotted yet another, which he named Thompson.

Other voyages followed, but very few, perhaps half a dozen, over the next century. In 1927, a Norwegian expedition was the first to explore the island further. He remained on dry land, collected samples for scientific analysis, planted the flag and, despite the British who arrived earlier, claimed sovereignty over that 49 square kilometer piece, 93% covered by ice.

It was not known whether the British had anchored at Liverpool or Thompson, which weakened their defense of possession of the site. In fact, due to the different names and locations that the island received over almost 200 years, many even doubted its existence. The Norwegians finally proved that she was there, yes.

The expedition that annexed the island on December 1, 1927

Image: Public domain

As the site was too far away and too uninteresting to prompt any kind of diplomatic squabble, the British dropped the dispute. So it was left to the Norwegians, who paid tribute to its discoverer and renamed it Bouvet.

Today, Bouvet and other islands constitute a dependent territory of Norway in Antarctica. The country still has two other territories with the same status, both in the Arctic: Jan Mayen and Svalbard (which has already been the subject of Terra à Vista).

It was later proven that Thompson is a ghost island. It doesn’t exist, despite having appeared on maps until the 1940s. Its fictitious existence was due to some observation error.

This further increased Bouvet’s loneliness. The island is 2,600 km south of South Africa and 2,250 km from Tristan da Cunha – which is, in turn, the most isolated inhabited island in the world.

threatened reserve

Land in sight - Tax haven - WikiCommons - WikiCommons

Bouvet Island Glacier

Image: WikiCommons

Bouvet is such a bleak and alien setting that she appears in “Alien vs. Predator” (2004). But the threat to the island is far more humane than endoparasitoid extraterrestrials or ETs who hunt other species for sport.

Decreed as a nature reserve in 1971, it is an avian paradise. Isolation, by the way, is a matter of point of view, because tens of thousands of penguins migrate every year to Bouvet to breed. For them, the island is a party.

In 1979, an American satellite detected a strange flash in the region. At first, it was believed that it was a meteor or some technical failure in the equipment. But most likely, it was later discovered, it was a secret nuclear experiment between South Africa and Israel, which would have exploded an atomic bomb near the Prince Edward Islands, a South African archipelago 2,500 kilometers to the northeast. of Bouvet.

Terra a Vista - Tax haven - Instagram/Reproduction - Instagram/Reproduction

Norwegian station staff pose for portrait on Bouvet Island

Image: Instagram/Reproduction

Like Bouvet, these islands are considered an important area for bird conservation. But what are a few thousand penguins and albatrosses when you can spit a mushroom cloud over the Earth, right?

Overseas accounts?

Last year, it was the turn of another country to “meddle” with Norwegian territory in a curious way. Not to say bizarre.

In 2021, tax records pointed out that almost 2.5 million Australian dollars (equivalent to around R$8.9 million) in Australian bank accounts belonged to citizens living in Bouvet. Since penguins don’t pay taxes, is Bouvet a new tax haven?

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO), equivalent to our Internal Revenue Service, had another explanation, says the Australian website ABC News. The agency also noticed that other uninhabited islands had bank account records that together amounted to many thousands of Australian dollars.

The problem happened with Bouvet and also with Heard Island and McDonald Islands. It is a group of equally depressed volcanic islands in Antarctica and which together form a territory belonging to Australia.

According to the ATO, what happened was commonplace nonsense. When filling out the forms to open the account, the customer or bank employee selected “Antarctica” instead of “Australia”.

It is one of the most typical lack of attention on the internet, thanks to the boxes with scroll bars that appear when we have to select the country of origin in all types of registration. Aussie guy types “A” to filter the options and selects the frozen continent, not his country, without realizing it.

In 2019, according to the ATO, only 0.0058% of reportable account holders were listed as tax residents in uninhabited jurisdictions. So, it’s not that it’s a very serious problem. It’s another curious fact, one of those you like to read here in the column that I know.

So pay attention when doing any online registration. Especially because, in many of these html country selection lists, Brazil comes right after Bouvet.

Index of places in the Terra à Vista column:

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: isolated island world penguins tax haven

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