In common parlance ‘offshore’ conjures-up images of tropical islands with crystal blue seas and golden sands, housing sweaty, crooked accountants in Hawaiian shirts busy hiding the paper trail of white collar crimes committed halfway across the world. It’s a place so far from our everyday lives that we rely on these stereotypes to visualise it. How many of us have been to the British Virgin Islands (BVI)? Who could point to the Marshall Islands on a map or name the capital of the Seychelles?

Alongside their exoticism, the corporate secrecy these jurisdictions provide give them an air of mystique. Bar the occasional whistle-blower tearing down their opaque corporate veils, these places offer complete anonymity to individuals and organisations from across the globe. Whilst some may seek this for legitimate reasons, such as security and privacy, they remain the go-to-locations for organised criminal gangs and corrupt politicians.

Who cares, you may think. These are people and events that are far from our neighbourhoods. What have they got to do with us? And yet these anonymous companies are also right on your doorstep.

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The next time you decide to pick-up tourist knick-knacks from the Scotland Shop off the Royal Mile, look across the road and you’ll see the home of Treegold Development LP, a Scottish Limited Partnership (SLP) that helped shift over £20 billion in illicit wealth out of Russia and Eastern Europe between 2010 and 2014. Hundreds of millions of pounds from this scheme was moved through UK banks. Treegold is controlled by two shell companies based in Majuro, Marshall Islands.

A few blocks from Glasgow Central station you’ll find the registered address of Hilux Services LP, an SLP allegedly used by leaders in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan to funnel at least a £1.2 million in bribes to an Italian politician who helped whitewash their human rights record. Hilux is controlled by two shell companies based in Tortola, BVI.

In an innocuous flat on Royston Road, Pilton, you’ll find Fortuna United LP, an SLP that formed part of a complex web of companies that stole over $1 billion from a Moldovan bank, which cost one of Europe’s most impoverished countries an eighth of their annual GDP. Again, two secretive offshore companies control Fortuna from Mahe in the Seychelles. The location of the stolen money is still unknown.

The list goes on.

Dotted around the side streets and estates of Scotland are tens of thousands of SLPs. According to research by Transparency International UK and investigative journalists at Bellingcat, 71 per cent of all SLPs registered in 2016 alone are controlled by companies based in secrecy jurisdictions. Separate research for The Herald suggests the total figure for all SLPs controlled in tax havens could be even higher.

After campaigning by this paper and anti-corruption activists, the UK Government has finally taken notice. In June this year it rushed through last-minute legislation to force SLPs to declare who really controls them. Those failing to comply could be fined up to £500 per day. This is a step in the right direction, but according to research by Bellingcat as of August only a fifth of SLPs had submitted this information.

As we head closer towards Brexit, politicians from all parties are keen to show the UK is still open for business. However, this openness is being exploited on an industrial scale by those seeking to steal from some of the most impoverished and downtrodden people in Europe. If the UK is to avoid getting a reputation as the clearing house for the corrupt, the government needs to end its role as an offshore on the edge of the continent. Maybe then it’ll be able to take on the secrecy havens in its Overseas Territories with a bit more authority.