In this article, I address two recurring tendencies that I heard during a recent period of research on banking secrecy in Luxembourg. First, my banker interviewees frequently mentioned personal transgressions for why many of their clients hide assets “offshore.” The wrongdoings my interlocutors cited included not only clients’ tax evasion, bankruptcy, and avoidance of liability – but also divorce, adultery, and the existence of out-of-wedlock children. Second, with a similar frequency, my interviewees drew parallels between the secrecy laws covering bankers and those afforded to other professionals in the country. Article 458 of Luxembourg’s Penal Code, dating from the nineteenth century, forbids doctors, midwives, and healthcare workers from making public any information pertaining to their patients. While banking-secrecy laws (passed in the 1980s) were based on Article 458 – which does not mention priests, but rather “persons told secrets on account of their profession” – I argue that it was nonetheless Catholic canonical law applied to confession that provided the model for banking secrecy in Luxembourg. Making a conceptual linkage between Luxembourg’s Catholicism and its offshore financial activity is not as far-fetched as it might seem; both the country’s Catholic Archdiocese and its financial center count on vast state patronage, as 70% of Luxembourgers are Catholic and financial services make up 35% of GDP. In this context, Luxembourg’s priests and bankers learn about the more delicate aspects of someone’s life, yet are legally bound to keep this information secret. My closing argument asserts that the precedent of priestly confession gives the financial center the profound social, economic, and political significance it enjoys in contemporary Luxembourg.



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