Freeports - The Beauty of Tax Free Storage
With broad access, the film takes a deep dive into the discreet world of high-security warehousing and takes a rare look behind the scenes of these extraordinary places.
Could this be a robbing network of tax havens, set up in broad daylight and right in the middle of our Western democracies?
Around the globe, a discreet new service is on the rise: the storage of precious art, wines, classic cars or gold bullion in secure customs warehouses often called freeports. While valuables are stored there, owners do not pay duties and sales taxes. “That is just temporary”, the operators claim, insisting there is no story here. But critics from the realm of art and finance fear: freeports could serve as legal loopholes for tax avoidance and shadow business. With broad access to freeport operators and forwarders of the world’s most precious artworks, the film takes a deep dive into the world of these ultra high security facilities.
The mother of all freeports sits in Geneva. Even the world’s most expensive painting, Leonardo DaVinci’s Salvator Mundi, used to be stored here. Remy Pagani is a former mayor of Geneva who has big misgivings about the Swiss city’s freeport. For years, he has protested the place as opaque and prone to dark dealings. At the side of Pagani we investigate the story of the Geneva freeport and confront its management. Are storage conditions and ownership all transparent and well monitored as they claim? Or could a place like the Geneva Freeport still be instrumental in facilitating tax avoidance schemes?
Originally created as temporary transit zones for business, today, treasures are increasingly being "parked" in freeports long-term. And the facilities spring up not only in places like Singapore and Switzerland, but also on US and European Union territories. The film explores what freeports are really offering to wealthy clients worldwide. In the US, Fritz Dietl, owner of the Delaware freeport, openly speaks about the tax angle of his customs warehouse. Activist John Christensen from the Channel Island of Jersey investigates systematic abuse of storage in freeports. A high ranking museum executive and art appraiser speaks openly about covert sales of world famous artworks inside the freeports. An insider reveals the practices and inner workings of the business. And it follows the case of Russian oligarchs who used freeports to shirk international sanctions.
What is fueling the rise of freeports? Is there a "Freeport system"? What is the role of a Geneva Businessman often called the “freeport king”? And why keep politicians supporting the facilities? “Freeports” embarks on a thrilling search to answer these questions and takes us inside the walls and steel gates of these secretive high-security warehouses that otherwise remain closed to the general public.