DEFINITION of 'Pirate Bank'

A type of offshore savings account used by a wealthy individual to hide assets, typically to evade taxes and/or commit illegal acts such as money laundering. A pirate bank is different from a traditional offshore account in that it uses advanced technology to make it more difficult to track down the account. The account may also be unnumbered and have a chain of ownership that is difficult to trace.


Offshore accounts are commonly located in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and the Channel Islands and funded electronically via wire transfer. Offshore accounts are associated with greater confidentiality and security, and these characteristics appeal to law-abiding citizens as well as less scrupulous ones. Not all offshore accounts are associated with illegal activity, however, and some banks require applicants to provide extensive documentation to prove their legitimacy before they can obtain an account. Offshore accounts can also legally be used to shield corporations from the higher tax burdens in their home countries.

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