Is it really possible to hide your assets and disappear in the modern world? Sure, Jack Reacher seems to live totally off the grid. But does he really?
Even Reacher carries an ATM card and a passport in addition to his folding toothbrush these days. He also collects a government pension from the Army, which is automatically deposited into his bank account every month.
But 15 years ago, when Lee Child’s Killing Floor burst on the scene featuring Reacher, it was still possible to keep secret money in both secret and not-so-secret places, like Swiss bank accounts.
By the time FBI Special Agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar began The Hunt for Jack Reacher, the IRS had changed the rules for U.S. citizens seeking to stash money offshore. The thriller writer’s go-to hiding place, Swiss banks, instantly lost their luster. No longer could we hide money and valuables from the prying eyes of, well, whoever might be looking.
Now, it’s even worse.
The IRS has been cracking down harder on potential tax evaders. Not only by going after Americans individually anymore. Now, the IRS is trying to force a criminal guilty plea from one of the venerable Swiss banks, Credit Suisse.
Credit Suisse is accused of helping Americans evade taxes by allowing them to deposit undeclared assets with confidentiality. Huh. Imagine that.
Now, sources say the U.S. Justice Department is close to securing a guilty plea from Credit Suisse. The plea would involve a billion-dollar settlement, according to people with insight into the negotiations.
Credit Suisse isn’t alone. Dozens of Swiss banks are trying to avoid U.S. prosecution by entering a program that would let them voluntarily disclose details about their efforts to help Americans with tax evasion. In return, those Swiss banks would have to pay a fine, but they would not be prosecuted. Similar to the individual tax amnesty I featured in Don’t Know Jack.
Mystery novelists like myself thrive on secrets. We daydream of places to store secrets. Places like Swiss banks, or more ordinary hideaways like a closet or a safe.
All for the sake of fiction, of course.
So if Swiss banks are no longer viable hiding places, what will we thriller writers do? Is the drama dead?
I think not. After all, tax evaders are criminals by definition. We all know how hard criminals fight to keep their ill gotten gains. What would Jack Reacher do? And how would Otto & Gaspar catch him in the act or die trying? Hmmmmm….