The Cook Islands is located in the South Pacific Ocean due south of Hawaii. Named after Captain James Cook, the English explorer, the country consists of 15 islands spread over 1 million square miles of ocean. The island of Rarotonga is the capital and home to more than 60% of the population. English is the every day language.
Originally a colony of Britain, then New Zealand, the Cook Islands achieved limited self-government in 1957, and became “self governing in free association” with New Zealand in 1965. It is now a fully sovereign state with its own parliament, universal suffrage, and general elections every 4 years. All Cook Islanders hold dual New Zealand and Cook Islands nationality and the country continues to enjoy a close relationship with New Zealand.
The judicial system in the Cook Islands is highly regarded. The Court system is hierarchical, beginning with the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and a further and final right of appeal to the Privy Council in England. All judges are senior judges chosen from the Court of Appeal in New Zealand.
The offshore centre was established in 1981 initially targeting markets in Australasia and driven by merchant banking transactions. In 1989 the Cook Islands became the first country to introduce asset protection laws and it remains the leading jurisdiction for asset protection trusts. This industry now dominates the financial centre.
The Cook Islands is in the same time zone as Hawaii making it particularly well placed for doing business with United States based clients. While the Cook Islands is geographically isolated it maintains excellent connections with the rest of the world with modern communication systems including high speed internet.
The thriving offshore industry is a major contributor to total government revenue. The other important contributors to the economy are tourism and cultured pearl farming.