“Political innovation should be considered an art form that challenges brutal repression and creates solutions for global governance. I believe that artists can create legislative and financial models for the complex needs of the 21st century, incorporating humor, beauty and interactivity into new forms of social organization”, New York-based, Italian artist and activist Paolo Cirio wrote in June 2013. This statement offers one of the keys to approach Loophole for All, a project that investigates offshore jurisdictions through the idea of having a company “on paper.” At Loophole4All.com, the real identities of anonymous companies taking advantage of the tax havens are on sale at a low cost to democratize the privileges of offshore businesses.
The project started with Paolo Cirio hacking the governmental servers of the Cayman Islands and stealing a list of all the companies incorporated in the country (more than 200,000), making it public for the first time.
Then Cirio hijacked the identities of these companies by moving their addresses to his Caymans mailbox and issuing counterfeited certificates of incorporation from the Caymans company registry. This massive corporate identity theft benefits from the anonymous nature of those companies since the real owners’ secrecy allows anybody to impersonate them. In short, this project turns the main feature of offshore centers into a vulnerability.
Through Loophole4All.com, anyone could hijack a Caymans company, from 99¢ for a certificate of incorporation for a real company to $49 for a mailbox in the offshore country with mail rerouting. Finally, small businesses and middle class people could invoice from the major offshore centers and avoid unfair taxes, legal responsibility and economic disruption in their own indebted home countries. In other words, the project turned tax evasion into a creative form of global civil disobedience.
In April 2013, PayPal suspended the account of Loophole4All.com, freezing the $700 raised in one month through selling the identities of Caymans companies, with the following motivation: “PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for items that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”
Ironically, PayPal (Ebay Inc.) is a company based in Luxembourg, an offshore country, and its own legality is questionable for evading responsibility to the rest of the world it operates in (generating some $145 billion not taxed anywhere). The company declared “illegal” an attempt to democratize a privilege it is benefiting from in the first place. Cirio responded providing all Loophole4All.com services for free.
Loophole for All is a layered project that sets itself at the overlap between politics and art. Started as an hacker attack, it develops into a huge leak of secret information made available to everybody for free, in a way that mimics the now popular strategies of Wikileaks and Anonymous. Furthermore, it adopts subversive affirmation by turning the privileges of big corporations obliquely supported by the political power into a right for everybody, starting a massive online performance in which anyone can participate. As a sideline, Loophole for All is also a research project that improves our knowledge on the issues it addresses: the artist interviewed major experts and produced a video documentary investigating offshore centers to expose their costs and to envision solutions to global economic injustice. Finally, the project is also an investigation of authenticity and value in contemporary conceptual art, that ironically plays with the analogies between the art system, where value is the questionable translation of the immaterial “aura” of an artwork, and the contemporary financial system.