INTRO BY JOHN DONOVAN: THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT TAX DODGING, AN ACTIVITY IN WHICH SHELL HOLDS A BLACK BELT AND HAS DONE SO FOR MANY DECADES. NOTE THAT GERRIT ZALM IS ON THE ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC BOARD OF DIRECTORS. HE IS ALSO THE CHAIRMAN OF ANOTHER ALLEGED TAX DODGER, ABN AMBRO BANK N.V. HE IS UP FOR RE-APPOINTMENT TO THE RDS PLC BOARD NEXT MONTH. OBVIOUSLY A PERFECT FIT.
While the Netherlands has its own image as a tax haven, Dutch multinationals are masters at setting up their own companies in tax-free zones, the Volkskrant reported at the weekend.
Shell has 85 subsidiaries in six tax-free zones, while ABN Amro has 54 in five. Privately-held oil trading group Vitol has 17. Most companies, including Vitol, are reluctant to give out much information about their activities in tax havens, the VK said.
ABN Amro, now fully owned by the Dutch state, is a little more forthcoming. It says the tax haven subsidiaries are connected to special investment funds and investments in ships and there is ‘no question’ of tax evasion.
Others, such as Akzo Nobel, Unilever and Philips, said they are in the process of liquidating their interests in tax havens.
Shell told the paper it supplies all necessary information to tax offices and denies that the Cayman Islands and Bermuda are tax-free zones under OECD definitions.
This article was re-edited after its initial publication.
Why Does No One Speak of America’s Oligarchs?
Overdressed Naked Capitalism
One of the striking elements of the demonization of Cyprus was how it was depicted as a willing tool of Russian money launderers and oligarchs. Never mind the fact, as we pointed out, that Cyprus is not a tax haven but a low-tax jurisdiction, and in stark contrast with the Caymans and Malta, has double-taxation treaties signed with 46 nations and has (now more likely had) with six more being ratified. Nor is it much of a tax secrecy jurisdiction, according to the Financial Secrecy Index. Confusingly, in the overall ranking, lower numbers are worse (Switzerland as number 1 is the baaadest) but in the secrecy score used to derive the rankings, higher is worse, with 100 being utterly opaque. The total rank is a function of “badness” (secrecy score) and weight (amount of business done). You’ll notice that all the countries ranked as worse than Cyprus have secrecy scores more unfavorable than it, with the exception of Germany, which is a mere 1 point out of 100 less bad, and the UK, which scores considerably lower (Nicholas Shaxson, author of Treasure Islands, would take issue with that reading, but he takes a more inclusive view of the boundaries of a financial services industry. For the UK, thus he not only includes the “state within a state” of the City of London, but also the UK’s secrecy jurisdictions, such as the Isle of Man, in his dim view of the UK as well as the US on secrecy). And even so, its greater volume of hidden activity gives it a much worse overall ranking. Of countries 21 tp 30, only 3 rank as less bad on secrecy: Canada, India, and South Korea.