15
$\begingroup$

I'm writing a story about a villain (as some would call him) or antihero (as he would prefer to be called), somewhat similar to Adrian Veidt, who needs to buy a few hundred acres of land to set up facilities and carry out certain plans.

He's from the US, but he needs a place where there won't be any nosy officials coming around to check on compliance with environmental regulations, or working conditions, or how he came by certain consignments of goods, or why his security guards are toting so much firepower.

At the same time, he needs to be able to fly home at regular intervals and do business in the US, so he can't have the FBI accusing him of doing business with a rogue state. Everything needs to look reasonably legitimate from a distance.

He doesn't yet have any connections outside the US, but he can pay a few million dollars in bribes if need be.

What would be the best country for him to set up shop in?

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hi rwallace. I edited the title of your question to hopefully better capture the essence of what you are asking. If you feel my edit changed your intent, feel free to either roll back the edit, or to edit further. $\endgroup$ – a CVn May 3 '15 at 14:55
  • 18
    $\begingroup$ This is purely hypothetical, right? Right?! $\endgroup$ – Schwern May 3 '15 at 19:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Not a full answer, but central america including southern mexico would work. id suggest somewhat underground as well, dont want images of your operation visable on google earth or anything. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth May 3 '15 at 20:30
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I know this is not the answer you're looking for, but in real life, villains actually go to Florida. Florida is a safe haven where it comes to personal liability and real estate tax. Florida has lax laws regarding building permits, environmental laws, and gun control. Florida also has plenty of wetlands that you could buy and disappear to. Furthermore, I'd suggest you find a location in Florida on the boundaries of different Counties. If your villain was ever caught doing something illegal, that would make it more difficult to apprehend him. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Branczyk May 4 '15 at 3:23
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @StephanBranczyk looks like a perfectly good answer to me $\endgroup$ – o0'. May 4 '15 at 8:26
7
$\begingroup$

It's risky but if you want to do business against the USA

  • You could go to a corrupted country. This is the perception of corruption and not the actual corruption but it's the only way to measure it. In such a places, the corruption is endemic and it's an integral part of the economy. It is possible to bribe and buy a lot of things. If you want the officials to look elsewhere, give them some money. It is not possible to be sure that you won't get caught because you know; there are still good cops around but if things go bad, you could try to bribe an higher official.
  • Looking at the list of corrupted governments, you probably noticed that the ones in the bottom all have problems. Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea, Yemen and Syria are all in a civil war. This is not just a coincidence: a lot of things are allowed in time of war. There is a lot of opportunities there for a mean spirited person. Now, these countries are unstable and may prove to be dangerous for your ''hero'' since he could get killed but authorities could be more compliant, especially if you can bring revenues or more stability in the region. Personally, I would not recommend Syria, Libya or Yemen because the situation is too chaotic. Avoid Iraq: the Islamic state might kill you and their state could disintegrate, endangering your investment. I don't know Eritrea enough to suggest a good vacation spot. The 2 remaining countries could be good fit. They have been at war for a long time. We could say that their state of instability is pretty stable. That is actually a good thing for you.
  • Lastly, I could also suggest Colombia. Some areas are controlled and have been controlled by the FARC for a long time. They are still fighting the government. You just need to convince them.
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Good answer. Each of the war-torn countries have places and transportation opportunities that are safe (remote). We just recently went as tourists to Socotra (Island of Yemen's), and were nowhere near any danger whatsoever. Now that I think of it, Socotra would be a good base for the anti-hero... $\endgroup$ – Mikey May 3 '15 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Mikey Islands in general are always a good place: Zanzibar, Macao, Singapore, Hong Kong $\endgroup$ – Vincent May 3 '15 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent- exactly, so I just used one case study, since there are thousands, but they should have the same opportunities and constraints. Seychelles, Canary Islands, ... the list goes on forever. $\endgroup$ – Mikey May 3 '15 at 19:07
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Vincent Good luck buying "a couple of hundred acres" in Macao, Singapore or Hong Kong! $\endgroup$ – David Richerby May 4 '15 at 11:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Vincent The FARC control a minimal part of Colombia now. They have been forced to negotiate at a peace table and the situation will probably end soon... $\endgroup$ – Joze May 4 '15 at 11:41
23
$\begingroup$

Goethe said: 'Warum in die Ferne schweifen, wenn das Gute doch so nah?' (Why longing for the distance?) So I'd vote for Mexico. More precisely for one of the special economic zones right across the US-border.

Your antiheroic villain could start a company, rent some factories and build a complex tunnel system. Nobody would ask, why he's traveling abroad so often. Au contraire: he will be renowned for running such a big business.

Tons of cash on his bank accounts? Above suspicion. His men armed to the teeth? Hey, we all know about the situation in Mexico. He's buying plutonium or any other supervillain-related-stuff? Dude, he's just doing serious business. That's dangerous? Yeah, but he's working it up in another country.

So the gov will leave him alone as long as he's paying taxes (by the way: taking over the world has a tax rate of 15%). Trust me, he will love it! :)

$\endgroup$
13
$\begingroup$

I'd suggest United States.

Trying to be sneaky will just make you look suspicious and attract attention. It is much simpler to simply get those permissions and pass those inspections. You might need to fudge some details like just who will have control of whatever you wish to build when it is ready, when exactly will it be ready, and what exactly can it do. But if you have a legit government contract to build an experimental prototype of something very close to what you actually want, fudging the details a little shouldn't be that hard. Experimentals never quite match the original plan, anyway.

I can't really be specific without knowing what it is you wish to build, but here are some benefits of staying domestic and legit.

No travel. Obvious, but probably more useful than you'd think. Thanks to terrorists various governments are actually paying attention to people travelling to remote locations and spending lots of money there. And while I don't want to go to irrelevant politics, the US doesn't really have the best reputation at the moment overseas. In most locations suggested the locals would be very suspicious of the American with all the armed guards and heavy logistics. Not necessarily enough to cause trouble, but it would attract attention from people whose job it is to be suspicious.

Improved security. The US government would help you keep things you want to keep secret stay so. A legit project useful to your needs would probably be classified. So while you would still need to obey regulations and pass inspections, compliance would be overseen by people who already know and accept what you are pretending to do. As long what you want to do and what you pretend to do are roughly similar with similar basic requirements, this removes the issue of somebody accidentally stumbling on the truth. It would take an expert looking at the details to tell the difference. And experts are valuable, details easy to obscure. If it is something exotic, all experts good enough to expose you might already work for you...

Government resources. The government could provide staff like physical security (why hire armed thugs, when you can ask for soldiers to protect the facility?), background checks of personnel, and facilities and personnel for testing prototypes. Access to computing resources for simulations and experts useful for debugging any possible technical issues would also be much easier. And depending on what you want to build government would probably foot part of the bill. It is probably easier to get government contract if you make it cheap for them, but money is money.

Easier logistics. Removing or reducing the need for remoteness, makes people and supplies easier and cheaper to get there. And having a government contract makes getting any restricted materials and components much easier and cheaper. Even more importantly, it makes you much less likely to come to the attention of people whose job it is to make sure restricted materials and technologies do not get into wrong places.

Getting caught hurts less. As Lohoris pointed out in a comment what happens if you get discovered is different as well. He presented that as a downside, but potentially getting arrested and having a more or less fair trial in a country where you have strong political connections that can affect the interpretation of your actions is preferable to a highly secure location that can only be neutralized as a threat using air strikes or commando raids. At least if you value staying alive and your project is a serious threat to national security of one or more major powers. The US might do a strike from a carrier or allied base anywhere in the world if threat is real. Countries like Russia, Israel, China and even France and United Kingdom would strike a serious threat if it was within convenient reach. Or at least inform somebody who can reach it.

Seriously, hiding in plain sight is almost always the best policy when you want to do something complex discreetly. It might be different for your particular villain, he might need to use a front man if he is too notorious to get a government contract, or your particular project, but in general it is easier to camouflage something as legit than it is to hide it. Especially if it is something large and complex. And involves "red flag" suspicious things such as much of weapons technology.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ One major downside: if the government suddenly somehow notices what he is doing, they will just storm in and he'll be doomed. The can't do that as easily if he's in another country. $\endgroup$ – o0'. May 4 '15 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ Most of what you say is sensible. However, you've completely ignored the premise of the question: the character doesn't want the US government involved and is so keen to avoid them that he's looking for places outside the US. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby May 4 '15 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Lohoris I got the impression that what he is up to would result in military operation or at least severe problems if discovered regardless of location. Added a note to the answer to address this. Thanks, this was a good point. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi May 4 '15 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby That is reasonable interpretation of the question, yes. But it doesn't actually say that, it just assumed a remote location outside developed countries would be needed to avoid meddlesome government interference. My answer is really an attempt to point out that there are alternate ways of dealing with that interference that do not require going overseas. So more stretching the premise to broaden the options than ignoring it. And IMHO broadening options always has value at design stage. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi May 4 '15 at 12:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Lohoris The US government is very good at gaming the system by pushing executive privilege and national security exceptions. A rich, influential US citizen fudging a government contract within US territory does not fall under those exceptions. It is more like business as usual. So as long as you were not caught red handed in the act of terrorism or government doesn't find detailed plans of your actual intentions, you'd probably get a legal process that is unfair in your favour. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi May 4 '15 at 18:44
10
$\begingroup$

Russia would be a good place to start. Tonnes of land, and most of it is so remote that the authorities will never come calling. Hell, they don't even have to know. Placed somewhere on the edge of one of the rivers north of Okhotsk, he could have short travel times between the US and his secret lab, in a location that is both close to a lot of major industrial and technical countries, while also being almost uninhabited. By setting up a company or something in the region, he could legitimately do business (not good business, but people make foolish choices all the time), with a local workforce and little interference. Goods could be shipped up by river from Okhotsk to his secret base, so it doesn't even require road access from Okhotsk (which is good, because it doesn't have any).

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That river, however, "is frozen from early November to May" (according to Wikipedia). $\endgroup$ – o0'. May 4 '15 at 8:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Also, it looks shallow and silty on Google maps, and there's a road bridge about 10km north of Okhotsk that has rather closely spaced piers. So that river doesn't look very suitable for anything other than fairly small boats. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby May 4 '15 at 9:43
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Really? An american setting up a company in Mother Russia? That's a very, very bad idea! More so if his business will be at least a bit shady. Russians, especially in rural areas, are generally wary of foreigners, especially of americans. He'd need to go a long way to win their trust. Otherwise, he'll end up with a bunch of illiterate village poors or non-russian-speaking tajik gastrabyters for workers and local tax officers storming his office on a frequent basis, demanding bribes. And the recent "foreign agent" law would be a problem, too... $\endgroup$ – Mints97 May 4 '15 at 11:56
6
$\begingroup$

First Condition: The new facility should not get the villain under suspicion back home. The new site may be important, but the profits to pay for the plot are generated at the legit sites. Nothing like a billion dollar fine for evading sanctions to screw up your plans for world domination.

The US government is powerful enough to make and enforce their own rules on the international community. This is not necessarily according to international law, but the threat of being banned from doing business in the US is a strong incentive. (Cf Banco Delta Asia, Bank Saderat Iran)

That excludes many highly corrupt and permissive regulatory climates, unless they happen to have a good relationship with the United States. Such a relationship can change on short notice. (Cf Iraq)

The most suitable places would be well connected in the international community, to resist unilateral US pressure. How about some of the British Overseas Territories or French Overseas Departments? But even they are coming under pressure, just like Switzerland.

Second Condition: Permissive regulatory climate. At a first glance, this directly contradicts the first condition. Reputable and well-connected nations have health and environmental inspectors.

However, it might be possible to find exceptions, especially if you know which inspectors you want to avoid -- some parts of Germany pride themselves in having fewer tax inspectors than average, but that wouldn't help with the weapons laws. Look at a place that needs foreign investment.

Third Condition: No nosy neighbors. You need a place that is physically secluded. Difficult in densely populated areas like Europe or New England. Australia, Canada, or US states like Arizona or New Mexico sound good.

TL;DR Are you sure you want to send your villain abroad? Find a county in the US where he would be the only significant investor, and where the old Sheriff and Mayor could be persuaded to retire with a fat bank account.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

While commenting, I thought of a place your anti-hero could go.

Remote part of an under-developed or war-torn location; case-study: Socotra, Yemen.

Since there are many examples, I will use one I just went to, and you can extrapolate from there. We recently went there as tourists: it is the "Galapagos of the Middle East".

Access: Socotra (or your destination) had a flight from the UAE with a layover in the British base off of Al Mukalla on mainland Yemen. Once on the island of Socotra, we just walked off: nothing was even glanced at. Also, there is a small port. Bring in your items in small packages and nobody cares; larger items will require some small bribery. Pirates of Somalia have piped down now.

Distraction: Yemen is under great upheaval, and the focus is in the West of Yemen and will likely continue. In the opposite side of the spectrum, Socotra's 50,000 or so people are quiet, many without electricity or water, but not expressing squalor (rural poverty as opposed to urban poverty - plenty of food, etc.). Nobody gives a fig about what you're doing on that island, and if they did, it would be hard for them to get any attention.

Communications: Your destination should have at least this, and indeed even the most remote parts of the world are starting to all have access to mobile & Internet. You can easily pay to have the Socotra mobile and IT connections wired to your compound.

Destination: Well, when you're entertaining your wealthy investors, your destination has the most beautiful beaches and weather, as well as the most exotic flora I have seen in my life. Also, the friendliest people, and the best lobster. Nobody wants to visit you in Siberia for meetings. ;)

Going to Space?: Socotra is very close to the equator driving down costs of your undetected space launches (I have no idea what your anti-hero is up to).

So obviously, I just used an example, but find your remote place of choice that has access, distraction, is bribe-able, has IT & Mobile and sea/air connections; and you might want a desirable location for the story as well.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ The British base near Al Mukalla was RAF Riyan. As far as I can tell, that closed in 1967 when what was then the Aden Protectorate became independent from the UK as South Yemen. There seem to be no British bases in Yemen today. It seems much more likely that your layover was at Riyan airport, which is near Al Mukalla but, according to Wikipedia, is not located at the former air base. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby May 4 '15 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby oh, that's what they called it throughout the trip; so I guess it had been transferred to Yemen? At any rate, it was very well walled off, well protected, and called "Mukalla" on our plane tickets. Apologies for any misunderstanding. $\endgroup$ – Mikey May 4 '15 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, interesting. Except for Riyan airport, I can't see any airstrips around Al Mukalla on Google Maps and, actually, I'm not sure that I believe Wikipedia when it says the current airport is in a different place to the base. What little I've managed to find on the 'net says there was quite a lot of civilian traffic at Riyan even when it was an RAF base, so it would make perfect sense for that location to have become an airport and/or Yemeni base after the British left. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby May 4 '15 at 20:41
0
$\begingroup$

I'm quite surprised nobody suggested... an island!

The guy could buy an island big enough to house a resort on the surface and a secret facility underground. The resort would have an airport that McEvil can use to travel to US.

His fortune could be justified as earning from the luxury resort. Being the owner of the island-state he wouldn't have to pay any tax.

Officials would come to the island only for leisure (he could actually spy them to obtain useful information).

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.