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OPINION

Rocky mountain offshore

It has all the makings of a tax haven. It's somewhere people tend to go only on holiday, if at all; it has a population of under a million, and a capital city with just 25,000 inhabitants; it's stable, with a median family income in 1989 of over $28,000. It even has snow-capped mountains.

"You've got the most stable political environment in the world," points out Peter Blouke, director of the department of commerce of this idyllic state. "And you have a very small bureaucracy. We already know that Montana's a good place to live, but it's also a good place to do business."

Montana? Until now, this north-western US state has not usually been bracketed with the likes of Switzerland, Panama and the Cayman Islands. But from the beginning of the year it has been accepting applications for charters to set up Foreign Capital Depositories, or FCDs.

"It's reflective of the independent, entrepreneurial nature of the state," says Blouke. "There is no comparable facility in North America." FCDs will take deposits of no less than $200,000 from non-US citizens, and protect them with the strictest privacy laws in the US. The state of Montana takes a 1.5%

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