We are bound by our confidentially agreement with our clients,' disclosed a Barclays official based in the Seychelles. 'No other branches can access our client details.' Practices such as banking secrecy, peddled by secrecy jurisdictions - better known as tax havens, to foreign clients criss-crossing the globe, may seem marginal, even irrelevant to the global financial architecture. But there legal and financial corporate services are in fact integral and remain a root cause of the artificial impoverishment of 'developing' countries. For South Africa, which loses an estimated 20% of GDP annually when adjusted for capital flight, 'supply-side' corruption services have long constituted the fabric of the country's political economy, utilized by both mining corporations such as De Beers, as well as the apartheid state.

Soon after the Iranian revolution, South Africa lost its primary oil supplier under the US-backed Shah. The Gulf countries, chiefly Saudi Arabia, stepped in as the main exporters, using the Seychelles as a sanctions-busting offshore hub, concealed from the public eye via the perception of the island as a socialist state. In 1977, Prime Albert Minister Rene overthrew then-President Mancham in a smoothly executed coup, allegedly with the help of Tanzania and China. But there existed another more secretive source of aid: apartheid South Africa, deliberately selecting the Seychelles for its positioning as a pro-Soviet state - and tax haven. As with all tax havens, the island intentionally supplied ring-fenced services to foreign clients keen to access secrecy and zero taxation, in this case enabling apartheid South Africa to circumvent sanctions.

The key figure, a close unofficial advisor to President Rene, and resident of the island since just prior to liberation, was Giovanni M Ricci, head of the Seychelles Trust Company (STC). STC was granted sole right to incorporate foundations and corporations on behalf of the government. In the early 1980s, the government sold its shares, rendering it an entirely private operation. It was to Ricci that the government turned when they, 'needed to finance something for which they didn't immediately have the money.'

While traipsing the globe on a diplomatic passport - and wallet - Ricci also established a company called GMR - after his initials, composed of a conglomerate of companies, 'operating throughout the world', chiefly secrecy jurisdictions such as the UK, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Panama. One of company's branches, situated in South Africa, was established by apartheid military and police intelligence super-agent, Craig Williamson in the early 1980s.

According to Williamson, GMR had its background in oil, and other strategic commodities. 'I would like to assist South Africa in the economic warfare facing it...If [GMR] is faced with anti-sanctions law, it will restructure activities...'

The Seychelles, alongside the US Virgin Islands, was one of three crucial transshipment centers used to circumvent UN embargos. The wheels were greased using secret slush funds opaquely invested by the South African Treasury into special funds, such as R320 billion from 1978-1994 (2005) into the SADF's 'special defense account'. Funds were apportioned not infrequently for the 'control of sanctions and disinvestment'. ‘Although we are effectively prevented from buying oil openly, we still get exactly what we want,’ stated Dennis Fletcher, head of one of apartheid South Africa's leading oil suppliers, Caltex (then part of US corporation, Texaco, currently Chevron).

Not much has changed these days. Capital hopping, arms deals, circumvented sanctions, and resource looting still occur as frequently as ever, cloaked in opacity, thanks to various 'international finance centers' respectably dotting the globe. Closer to home, Bostwana's lack foreign exchange controls has rendered the country 'the Switzerland of Africa' facilitating easy transfer and repatriation of laundered profits. The country's International Financial Services Centre (IFSC), structured after that of Dublin's, was created in 2003 to 'facilitate cross-border financial services ie: the Hoover effect, sucking up illicit flight from neighboring regions, including SA.

'We do not intend to ruin our international reputation by embracing practices which place us in the category of a tax haven', declared the IFSC, established with the intention of competing with another tax haven, Mauritius. But Botswana's IFSC allows for foreign clients to escape withholding and capital gains tax, while accessing a 15% corporate tax rate that may be circumvented using a selection of services available including the age old trick of mispricing. Though SA provides secrecy vehicles such as trusts, the proximity of the IFSC, allegedly shaped, as in Ghana, by foreign banks such as Barclays, does not bode well. The IFSC's CEO himself is an old Barclays hand. The country's IFSC is one of only three in the world and Botswana offers one of the world's lowest tax rates. One client, Zimre Holdings Ltd, a Zimbabwean investment and insurance entity keen to engage in 'oil, gas and other energy forms in Africa, especially Angola'. The company, only recently delisted from sanctions by the EU, is almost 70% controlled by the government of Zimbabwe.

While Botswana is not a traditional tax haven, it is well on its way to becoming a secrecy jurisdiction hoovering up the sub-region's siphoned development revenue. For corporations 'springboarding' into Africa, concealing demand-side corruption through supply-side vehicles has become as easy as flicking a switch.