The Atlas of Offshore Foreign Direct Investment

FDI – Foreign Direct Investment consists of controlling investments by companies and individuals that cross international borders.

It is the investments that multinational corporations use to own the different pieces of themselves in different countries.

FDI consists largely of paper shell companies used for tax avoidance and other purposes.

Data from the International Monetary Found (IMF) show that the offshore FDI component may be larger than the FDI that is not linked to or distorted by offshore structures. As of 2016, two thirds of all worldwide FDI recorded by the IMF was either in or from "offshore" jurisdictions.

How do FDIs work?

origin destination conduit conduit

There is always an origin country from which money starts to move towards a final country of destination.

It's not always so straightforward though. Money could pass through one or more conduit countries before arriving to the final destination.

Money could also take a round trip, going from the destination to a conduit and back to the destination. This kind of investements are called inversions. A nation could have more than one role: it could be origin, destination and conduit at the same time.

Each flow of money between countries has also a certain degree of uncertainty that depends on how much confidence there is in the estimates.

Offshore Hubs

The cast of leading jurisdictions in these structures tends to be somewhat different from the stereotype of an "offshore" jurisdiction. Rather than small tropical islands, the largest hubs in the global offshore shell company network are countries in europe.

Two thirds of all offshore FDI is routed worldwide is routed through the netherlands and luxembourg.

Small islands account for much of the remaining activity, the most important of these are british overseas territories and crown dependencies such as the cayman islands, british virgin islands, or bermuda. To a substantial extent, these are located within the UK jurisdiction.

The dataset underpinning the Atlas of Offshore FDI is vast. To allow the complexities of the global shell company network to be explored in detail, the data is accessible via an interactive mapping tool.

explore the tool Additional information

The tool is best viewed on a desktop computer.