With the Goldman Sachs scandal playing out in the press and President Obama's recent Cooper Union speech still resonating through America's financial community, the word on The Street is that many of the country's less-principled financiers have recently found themselves daydreaming about getting a one-way ticket out of Dodge.
Luckily, the financial scofflaw with a truckload of money has several options at his or her disposal. Granted, traditional havens like Canada might be a little hesitant to adopt someone who helped bring down the world economy -- and in light of recent events in Greece, even France might be reluctant to open its doors.
But never fear, dozens of countries don't have extradition treaties with the U.S. -- and are desperate for new visitors.
Best Hideouts for Wall Street Villains
As the SEC looks more closely at the big banks' role in the financial crisis, some bankers may want to think about their travel options. While beauty and comfort should be taken into account, a lack of extradition may be the most attractive feature for financial scoundrels on the run.
Paul Sakuma, AP
Admittedly, most of the countries on the nonextradition list are communist, run by brutal theocracies, currently at war or lack a functional government. But with a little imagination, a walled fortress and a steady supply of the local moonshine, intrepid on-the-lam travelers can handle it. What's more, with kinds of winters New York has frozen through lately, equatorial Africa is looking better and better.
Which leads us to DailyFinance's picks for the top five places to run to when the U.S. Senate decides that it wants to have a little talk.
Outdoorsman: With a per-capita GDP of over $17,000, Croatia occupies that sweet spot between places that are too poor to be safe and too expensive to be enjoyable. Your dollar will go a long way here, and with miles of beaches, remote castles, extensive caves and uninhabited islands, the formerly war-torn republic has endless options for your next home. While a little lacking in nightlife, Croatia's extensive diving, caving and hiking opportunities make it ideal for outdoorsmen, and its stable government and parliamentary republic promise that your property -- and life -- should be well protected by the rule of law.
Star Trek Enthusiast: Trekkers have few better choices than Kazakhstan. This Central Asian nation, the ninth-largest country in the world, is basically what happens when you mix hundreds of years of Mongol heritage with gobs of revenues from oil and uranium. Terrain options range from extensive shoreline to rugged canyons, but Kazakhstan is particularly famous for the steppes, a sprawling, windblown grassland where the descendants of the Khans drink fermented mare's milk and practice Khyz Kuu, a traditional sport that basically involves chasing down maidens while on horseback. In terms of cities, the capital, Astana, halves the distance between Mongol and Klingon culture, with breathtaking buildings that seem to have jumped off the cover of a Ray Bradbury novel. Officially a presidential republic, Kazakhstan is actually more of a benevolent dictatorship, but the rule of law is strong, and chances are that you won't have any unpleasant run-ins with the local authorities.
International Playboy: The Middle East isn't generally known for its rockin' night life, but Dubai has long since positioned itself as the Las Vegas of the Persian Gulf. With gorgeous buildings, a vibrant scene and a sprawling collection of private islands, the city is designed for people much like yourself: Wealthy, questionably moral, and uninterested in dealing with the filthy hoi polloi. If you're looking for something a little more sedate, try lesser-known Abu Dhabi. Located a short ride from the glitzy pleasures of Dubai, this gem is staid, beautiful and well-planned. Whichever way you go, the United Arab Emirates is a good deal right now -- property values tumbled during the downturn but are rising again, and the country's extensive infrastructure and commercial development guarantee you easy access to most of the pleasures of home.
Bond Villain: Most experts view Western Sahara as the world's longest-running failed nation, but we'd prefer to think of it as the world's most functional anarchy. While Morocco is ostensibly in charge of the place, the truth is the Western Sahara basically occupies 103,000 square miles of empty, unpoliced space positioned between Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria. Only 600 miles (as the crow flies) from Europe, it's a convenient staging ground for any dastardly plans you might want to cultivate. Granted, infrastructure is rare to nonexistent, but a few billion dollars should easily fix that, and the lack of state-level oversight means that you won't have to deal with zoning issues when building your secret hideout.
Spiritual Hermit: After spending over a hundred years in relative obscurity, Bhutan still hasn't made much of a blip on the international tourism radar. However, the Asian "constitutional democratic monarchy," once part of Nepal, may be the perfect choice for the stressed banker looking to get away from it all. Located at the eastern end of the Himalayas, Bhutan offers many of the comforts of home, including a cell-phone network, daily flights from Bangkok and New Delhi and Internet access. Not among the world's wealthier countries, Bhutan has chosen to measure its success based upon "Gross National Happiness." Among other things, this means tourism development is heavily restricted, so your sense of internal well-being is less likely to be disturbed by the sight of high-rise hotels or the buzzing of snowmobile-riding tourists!
Wherever you decide to go, happy hiding.
Related article: Know Where to Run to: The 5 Best Countries With No Extradition