CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston counselor Annette Zavareei was one of 100 Americans who protested in front of a building in the Cayman Islands that is the official headquarters for 18,857 corporations, allowing their owners to save billions of dollars in taxes.
During a week-long Caribbean cruise hosted by The Nation magazine, Zavareei and 100 of her fellow passengers left the cruise ship on Dec. 13 to protest in front of the Ugland House, a waterfront building which those corporations list as their official headquarters.
CODEPINK -- a movement initiated by women to protest wars and social injustice -- led the protest in George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands.
The marchers in George Town chanted: "Hiding money is a crime. Tax evaders should be doing time." (A video of the march is available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rkr2Z2DavDI.)
They held up signs stating: "Bring Our Tax Dollars Home" and "We Want Our Money Back."
"I belong to CODEPINK, and I knew there was going to be a demonstration when I went on the cruise. It was planned," Zavareei said.
"CODEPINK tries to be outrageous to get attention for their issues. We had a demonstration when [Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu came to Washington, D.C. That demonstration included some Palestinians who were dancing to get attention."
CODEPINK members recently protested during a National Rifle Association event.
The Cayman Islands drew some attention during last year's presidential race.
"When Mitt Romney was running for president, the issue of tax shelters and multimillionaires making their money here and hiding it in the Cayman Islands began to be talked about," said Zavareei, who lives in Charleston's Fort Hill neighborhood.
Romney had substantial investments based in the Caymans.
"The same people who are hiding their profits on the Cayman Islands are people talking about cutting Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and educational spending," Zavareei said. "The purpose of our demonstration was to bring attention to this issue.
"I thought it was fantastic. How positively we were received by people on the Cayman Islands really intrigued me. It is a beautiful island in the middle of nowhere. But it isn't really meant to be a tourist resort. There are not any huge restaurants there."
On July 23, Forbes magazine published an article about a study finding at least $21 trillion in offshore investments made by wealthy Americans in countries like the Cayman Islands and Switzerland.
The study was written by James Henry, a former chief economist at McKinsey and Co., a global-management consulting firm based in New York. Henry's study was commissioned by Tax Justice Network, a group based in England.