A Thrilling Tale: Robin and the Drug Smugglers

The house master Mr. Trevor John addressed all the boarders assembled in the school compound of the Daly College, the premier residential school set up the English at Indore. Well boys” he said “today is booking out day”. All senior boys who wish to book out may give their names to the house Prefect. But remember boys, to be back by six in the evening; it’s the dead line”. Robin Singh a student of Class X looked at the sky. It was bright and sunny. Oh! He thought what fun to cycle out for a long cross country ride. His thoughts were interrupted by a gentle tap on his shoulder. It was the Vice Principal, Mr. Gopal Singh.

“Hey Robin, what’s your plan? Going for a swing on your cycle?” he asked.

“Sir” Robin replied

The entire school knew that Robin was an ace long distance cyclist. Only at the last state level meet he had won the 10,000 meters race in record time. His sports master had high hopes of Robin making it big on the international scene.

Robin set out on his cycle a sleek Raleigh gifted to him after his last victory by the Raja of Dewas. He drove under a clear blue sky towards the nearby Military cantonment of MHOW or as the British called it the Military Headquarter of War. at breakneck speed as he tested the machine and his own endurance to the limit. He soon crossed the cantonment which was about twenty miles from his school. In a few moments Mhow was left behind. The road now became quite desolate with hardly a pedestrian and only the odd truck to keep him company. He headed forward and soon saw a small road winding away among the hills. He slowed down and turned into a side road. It was a lonely road lined all along with lush green trees. After a few minutes he decided to take a rest and parked his cycle under the shade of a large Banyan tree. Taking out his canteen from the small bag at the back of his cycle, he took a swish of the cold water and thought of the next state level meet. He meant to win it. Just then he was startled to see the flight of birds from a tree some distance away. Obviously the birds had been frightened. Intrigued he put the bottle back and looked in the direction of the flight of the birds. A moment later he heard a scream. It was a chilling sound that shattered the tranquility of the area. He looked in the direction of the sound. Just ahead was a small hill that hid the horizon from his eyes. The spirit of adventure fired him as he headed towards the small hill. He was sure the scream was that of a man, perhaps in dire danger. He quickly climbed the hill and taking shelter behind a clump of trees looked down. An eerie sight met his eyes. A brown colored jeep was parked and near it stood four men. It was apparent that one of the men was held firmly by two of the men while a third man stood in front. Robin noted that he wore dark glasses with curved dagger in his right hand.

Instinctively he hit the ground and looked on, fearful that he had stumbled at the scene of a gigantic crime. The man with dark glasses hissed “Karim Bhai, why do you want to die. Tell us where the opium is and I will let you go scot free.” The man called Karim whimpered “Patel sahib, spare me… I don’t have the opium.”

“You mean you sold it?”

“Sahib”

“Then where is the cash? The opium was worth a fortune”

“I lose it… but I will pay… “

“You scoundrel… “

Robin saw the blade flash in the sun as it descended with great force and entered the stomach of the man called Karim”

“Die, you… you insect”

Robin saw Patel Bhai stab Karim repeatedly. The man slumped forward as Patel Sahib sheathed his blood covered dagger. The other two men laughed “Patel sahib, it is good you have killed the bastard, he was a real snake”

“Yes” Patel sahib replied.

“It was a fine ploy to call him here” one of the men commented “Sahib you are a real genius, even the local police inspector is in your pay”

At this all laughed. Startled Robin held his breath as he took in the gory scene. He thought it best to leave and slowly he started to back away. Unwittingly his hand dislodged a small stone that hurtled down the hill side.

“What is it?” the man called Patel sahib shouted and then his eagle eye espied Robin moving away.

“There is a boy” He shouted “By the grace of Krishna catch him and kill him; I want no witness to this”

“Huzoor” the two men replied in unison as they headed towards Robin.

“Idiots” Patel sahib shouted ‘come with me in the jeep, we shall soon catch the scoundrel’

Robin slid down quickly to his cycle. His ears reverberated with what he had heard. He knew he was on his own, with these desperados behind him. He remembered reading Sherlock Holmes and words of the famous detective to his friend Dr. Watson rang in his eyes “Watson the game is afoot… “

He quickly climbed into the saddle as he remembered that in this case he was the game.

Robin took stock of the situation. He realized that if he cycled on the road, there was a good chance of the crooks catching him on their jeep. So he turned of the metal led road and headed into the bypassed clumps of trees and rocks that dotted the scene. Shout from behind alerted him to the jeep following him to the country side. Patel sahib looked at the other two men sternly and said “Smasher, cock your pistol and keep it ready; the moment you get the boy in your sight, shoot to kill”

“Huzoor” the man called Shamsher replied as he pulled out a sinister looking revolver and held it towards the fleeing boy. Robin, now obvious to the scenic beauty cycled for dear life. He remembered that just next to the cantonment there was a small police post; so he headed in its general direction. Behind him he could hear the jeep following, its engine chugging away ominously. The jeep found following Robin a difficult proposition as the countryside was undulating and dotted with rocks and trees, allowing Robin to stay clear ahead. He took great gulps of air as he cycled forwards his heart pulsating like a machine. Ahead he was heartened at the sight of a small wood and he cycled towards it with gusto. Seeing Robin head towards the clump of trees Patel Sahib shouted “Get the boy Shamsher – otherwise we may lose him” Shamsher took aim and fired. The stillness of the countryside was shattered with a shot, but as the jeep was in motion, Shamsher’s aim was not steady and he missed the weaving boy. Robin crossed the small wood and heaved a sigh of relief as he saw the main road ahead and a little ahead the Police post. He cycled powerfully towards it. He entered the compound and headed towards the small office. He entered the door and saw a small office. He entered the door and saw small man sitting there. Robin could make out that he was sub inspector. Startled the policeman look at Robin and asked “Boy, what are you doing here?”

Robin didn’t like the look on the man’s face, but all the same he replied “Sir I have just seen a murder take place, some distance away from here and the killers are following me in a jeep”

“A brown colored Jeep? “Asked the Inspector.

“Yes sir” Robin replied, but he wondered how the inspector could have known the color of the jeep. The Inspector motioned him to sit down.

“Don’t worry” he said, “I shall soon catch them, but you stay here and don’t go anywhere”

Robin looked out of the door and his heart missed a beat as he saw the same jeep enter the compound. He could make out the three hoodlums sitting inside.

“Are these the men?” the inspector asked. Robin nodded his head with a faint trace of doubt in his mind. Motioning Robin to keep sitting the Inspector went outside towards the jeep. He reached the jeep as the occupants got down. Robin could make out that they were known to the Inspector. He saw Patel Sahib smiling broadly as he shook hands with the inspector. Aghast Robin saw the inspector pointing towards the office with his thumb. God! Thought Robin, this man is in league with Patel sahib. He did not tarry a moment but quickly climbed out of the window; landing with a soft thud outside. He wishes he had his cycle with him, but realized it would be dangerous to try and get it as it was parked in the compound. Robin put his athletic body to good use as he stealthily headed into the countryside. He ran parallel to the road, taking cover now and then to conceal his movement. He wondered at the reaction of the men as they went into the police post. Obviously they would not be pleased at his escape. As he ran he kept his eye on the road hoping to see a police patrol vehicle to help him. He knew that the men in the jeep were hardened criminals. Soon out the corner of his eye he espied a blue colored Gypsy and instinctively knew it to be a police patrol vehicle. He stopped and waved his arms widely to attract the attention of the occupants. They saw him and slowed down. Robin headed towards the patrol Gypsy with alacrity. Panting he stopped by its side and looked at the policemen with hope and anticipation. He was reassured at their sight. There were two of them inside. One of them, a kindly looking man with a large moustache smiled at Robin.

What is it son?” he asked softly

Robin quickly narrated the sequence of events. The man listened intently. It was obvious that he believed Robin. Just as Robin finished the brown colored jeep appeared from behind. He saw Patel sahib and his henchmen sitting in the jeep. Police Gypsy they accelerated and sped forward.

“They are the men” Robin gasped “They are getting away”

The man smiled “They won’t get far son”

He tuned the wireless set and spoke into the mike

“Inspector Tripathi calling. A Runaway jeep with possible criminals is fleeing on the Mhow road. Intercept and arrest”

He switched of the set and grinned “Let’s see how far they get. And you son better go home”

Robin smiled, greatly relieved “But please take me back to the police post as my cycle is parked there”

Robin climbed into the Gypsy as it reversed. Just then the wireless crackled. The voice came clear and sharp “Good show Tripathi. Jeep with noted smuggler Patel sahib apprehended along with Sub Inspector Ramu”

The inspector grinned “That was the DSP”

Robin reached the school. He cycled slowly into the vast compound. The roll call was over. Only the house master was standing with a register. Seeing Robin approach he looked a little severely and said “You are fifteen minutes late Robin; A deadline is a deadline”

“Sir”

“Well no out pass for you next Sunday” the House Master said with an air of finality

Robin smiled weakly. He wondered whether he should tell the House Master about the extraordinary happenings of the day, but decided against it. Perhaps he would not believe him. He just walked into the dorm and fell fast asleep.

Two days later Robin was called along with his house master to the Principals Office. Robin entered the room and saw the principal sitting pompously. Sitting in front of the Principal was the House master along with Sub Inspector Tripathi and another man sporting a lot of ribbons on his chest. He was the Inspector General of Police. The Principal beamed “Robin you have done the school proud. The IG tells me that you helped catch Patel Sahib a notorious narcotics smuggler.

The IG smiled “Well down son”.

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How and Why to Open a Bank Account in Hong Kong

Hong Kong today remains one of the best offshore banking jurisdictions. It offers a great combination of bank secrecy, corporate secrecy, a financially and politically stable environment, and strong banks. But perhaps most importantly, it’s a secure offshore investment haven for those who want to diversify out of sinking western currencies into booming Asian markets, and China in particular.

So how can you go about opening an offshore bank account in Hong Kong? Do you have to travel there? This article will answer these questions and give you some practical hints and tips. But first some background.

A Successful Free Market Experiment For East and West Alike

Hong Kong, in my opinion, is the only practical example in the world of a major city that has been developed from scratch and run as something of an offshore, free market experiment – first by the British, then by the Chinese.

The main Island (and later Kowloon and the New Territories, parts of the mainland) was a British colony for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During this time it grew from a fishing village and opium trading hub, into a city-state of seven million people. It became known as a free-wheeling, free market paradise for capitalists, with an economy characterized by low taxation, free trade and no government interference in business.

In 1997 the British returned sovereignty over Hong Kong to China. The former colony became one of China’s two Special Administrative Regions (SARs), the other being Macau. Many people were initially doubtful about one of the world’s capitalist bastions being run by a communist power, and at the time a lot of investors pulled out, many taking their dynamic business acumen heading to places like Singapore and Vancouver.

However, the “one country, two systems” model adopted by Beijing to coincide with free market reforms and the growth of China into an economic superpower has proven very successful. The Basic Law of Hong Kong, the equivalent of the constitution, stipulates that the SAR maintains a “high degree of autonomy” in all matters except foreign relations and defence. The SAR today operates as a major offshore finance center, discreetly oiling the wheels of commerce between East and West.

These days, rather than being put off by the Chinese influence, most international investors who are attracted to Hong Kong are coming precisely because of this Chinese connection. Hong Kong is the point of access to Chinese trade, without the legal and cultural difficulties of doing business in mainland China.

Those who do not trust their own governments are reassured by the fact that under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s foreign relations are run from Beijing. While most offshore jurisdictions humbly submit to demands from the USA and other western countries, in the case of China, the relationship is definitely reversed. Hong Kong does have a number of Tax Information Exchange Agreements (see below) but these are sensibly policed and do not allow for fishing expeditions.

Offshore Banking in Hong Kong

The region’s population is 95 percent ethnic Chinese and 5 percent from other groups, but English is very widely spoken and is the main language in businesses like banking.

One thing I like about using Hong Kong for offshore bank accounts is the same argument I have used for Panama and Singapore: it’s a ‘real’ country with real trade going on. The Hong Kong dollar is the ninth most traded currency in the world. Compare this to doing business on a small island or other remote banking jurisdiction, where everybody knows your only reason for doing business there is offshore banking. It also means that there is no problem doing your banking in cash, if you so wish.

For now the HKD, the local dollar, still tracks very closely the US dollar, but this appears to be changing as the Chinese Yuan circulates freely in Hong Kong, both in cash and in bank deposits. We think this represents an excellent opportunity to diversify funds out of the US dollar now, gaining exposure to Chinese growth in the meantime. (Of course, you can also hold HKD in banks in other parts of the world too)

Bank accounts in Hong Kong are almost all multi-currency by default, allowing all major local and international currencies to be held under one account number and exchanged freely and instantly within the account at the click of a mouse.

There is no capital gains tax, no tax on bank interest or stock market investments, and no tax on offshore sourced income. This, combined with a welcoming attitude to non-resident clients in the banks (including US citizens by the way, who are generally unwelcome in traditional offshore banking havens like Switzerland), and strong cultural and legal respect for financial privacy, makes Hong Kong one of Asia’s best offshore banking jurisdictions.

For those who want to establish a small offshore account under reporting limits, or simply to have the bank account established in view of future business, Hong Kong is also attractive given the low minimum deposits demanded by the major banks there. The minimum bank account balance can be as low as HK$ 3,000. Of course, you can’t expect red carpet, VIP private banking at this level – but you get a perfectly good functioning bank account with all the technological trimmings.

Offshore Corporate Bank Accounts in Hong Kong – Do’s and Don’ts

Typically, offshore clients choose to open accounts using corporations, as opposed to personal accounts. This not only offers greater privacy, but also flexibility and can – depending of course on how things are structured – offer significant tax and asset protection advantages.

Accounts can easily be opened both for pure offshore companies like Panama, BVI, Nevis or Marshall Islands, or for local Hong Kong companies that are set up using nominee directors and shareholders.

When contacting local corporate service providers in Hong Kong, you’ll find that most of these corporate service providers will recommend you use a Hong Kong company to open the account. The reason they do this is that it’s simpler and more profitable for them. They can incorporate a local company at low cost, opening the bank account is smoother and faster with a local company, and they can carry on billing nominee director fees every year. But it may not be the right thing for you.

Whilst it is true that Hong Kong companies do not have to pay any tax provided they do not make any local source income, administering such a company is not so simple. For example, Hong Kong companies are required to file audited accounts every year. They must file pages and pages of documents to convince the Inland Revenue Department (HKIRD) that they don’t have any local business, and, from practical experience, the HKIRD is getting much stickier about this. Long-established companies are normally left unmolested but newly established companies can expect a lot of compliance work in their first few years. Again, this suits the Hong Kong corporate service providers who charge handsomely for such services.

Another factor to consider is Controlled Foreign Corporation (CFC) legislation in your home country. (For an explanation see Wikipedia ) Many clients choose to set up LLCs as they can be treated as passthrough entities, vastly simplifying reporting requirements in some countries like the USA. Hong Kong corporations are not LLCs and cannot be treated as passthroughs for tax purposes.

My advice – assuming you don’t intend to do any business in Hong Kong besides banking and perhaps the occasional trip to visit your money – would be to open the account in the name of a company from a foreign offshore tax haven. It’s a little more work and expense at the beginning, and the bank might ask you more questions, but it will save you a lot of money and headaches in the long term. If you want a local look and feel for your company, numerous virtual office services are available.

Hong Kong Tax Information Exchange Agreements

Contrary to what you will read on some out-of-date websites, Hong Kong has signed a number of Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs). However, the HKIRD is at pains to point out that fishing expeditions are not going to be tolerated.

The HKIRD has issued Practice Note 47, available on the internet, which usefully explains how the HKIRD seek to achieve a balance between the requirements of compliance with the OECD requirements, whilst providing checks and balances to protect the rights of businesspeople.

The HKIRD are professionals and should be well positioned to deal with TIEA requests properly and justly in accordance with the treaties and guidelines. I am confident not going to allow their ‘clients’ rights to be trampled on.

Regulation of Banks in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Banking Ordinance was revamped in 1986. It has since undergone several amendments to improve prudential supervision. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) was formed in 1993 as a one-stop financial regulator, responsible for everything from banks to stored value anonymous debit cards.

The SAR maintains a three-tier system of deposit-taking institutions, comprising licensed banks, restricted license banks, and deposit-taking companies. Only licensed banks may operate current and savings accounts, and accept deposits of any size and maturity. RLBs are only allowed to accept deposits of HK$500,000 and above, while DTCs are only permitted to accept deposits of a minimum of HK$100,000 with original maturity of not less than three months.

Both these latter categories provide an opportunity for overseas banks to conduct wholesale, investment or private banking activities in Hong Kong without having to jump through the hoops of applying for a full banking license. In addition, some foreign banks have chosen to open representative offices in Hong Kong, which are not allowed to take deposits but can assist in opening accounts at other offices within their groups.

As Hong Kong is an international financial centre, it is an explicit policy of the HKMA that the regulatory framework in Hong Kong should conform as much as possible with international standards, in particular those recommended by the Basel Committee.

Hong Kong’s five largest banks, in terms of total assets, are as follows:

– Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)

– Bank of China (Hong Kong)

– Hang Seng Bank Ltd

– Standard Chartered Bank

– Bank of East Asia Ltd.

A full list of updated Hong Kong banks can be found on Wikipedia.

Visiting Hong Kong to Open a Bank Account

If you are visiting Hong Kong to open your account, it can normally be opened the same day provided you have made some arrangements with a local service provider, or directly with the bank, in advance. This is assuming you use one of the major banks, that nearly everybody does. You can then simply visit the bank, sign documents and receive the bank account number immediately. This will be a full multi-currency account and you will typically receive a digital token for internet banking, a password and a debit card.

The documents required for opening offshore bank account are:

1) Formation documents (in the case of corporate accounts. Apostilles are required in the case of foreign corporate accounts – your offshore provider will know how to obtain these.)

2) Bank forms and business plan/expected activity (a corporate service provider will normally supply these as part of the service)

3) Passport copies of each director, signatory and shareholder (take special note of this requirement if you are using nominee directors – if the persons are not present, copies will have to be notarized.)

4) Proof of address (such as updated bill statement which shows up your name and address) and signed (of each director and shareholder)

A bank reference is generally required if you are dealing direct with the bank. If you go through a corporate service provider, they normally write a reference so you do not need to supply a bank reference. However, if you can obtain a bank reference it is better.

Opening an account without visiting Hong Kong

It is also perfectly possible to open accounts without visiting Hong Kong (known as ‘remote account opening’) though this process tends to take substantially longer as banks will ask a lot more questions. In this case, your bank or service provider will generally e-mail you the forms, that you will need to print out and sign.

Depending on the bank, there may well be certain special instructions about how and where to sign – for example, HSBC in Hong Kong will typically request that you have your signature witnessed in the HSBC Bank nearest to you. As with all foreign bank accounts, you should be sure to use the same signature that appears in your passport, otherwise the documents will be rejected.

In the case of remote account opening the bank will normally courier the password, debit card, and token direct to your address in your home country. Then you need to activate them via the bank’s website.

Conclusion

Hong Kong competes very favorably with Singapore, the other Asian banking jurisdiction we favor. If you have not yet diversified your offshore holdings into Asia, you should seriously consider doing so. I hope this article will be helpful in this regard.

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