The Grangemouth petrochemical giant, Ineos, has links with the controversial offshore tax haven firm exposed by the recent ‘Paradise Papers’ leak.
The Appleby Trust had share capital in Ineos from 2012 to 2015, while its successor, Estera Trust, had shares in 2016. Both firms are based on the island of Jersey and have faced a storm of criticism in recent weeks for helping multinational companies, celebrities and royals cut their tax bills.
Campaigners attack Ineos for its lack of transparency, and are demanding reforms to make multinational tax affairs clearer. Ineos says that it used the offshore companies to administer an employee equity plan, and has never sought their tax advice.
Over 13 million documents were leaked as part of the Paradise Papers, detailing the confidential business of 120,000 organisations and individuals. The leak has exposed the complex offshore financial arrangements made by the Queen, Prince Charles, Apple, Nike, the racing driver Lewis Hamilton and many others.
Appleby, which was rebranded as Estera in 2016, specialises in offshore legal and tax services, and helps manage staff bonus payments and equity plans. There is nothing to suggest it acts unlawfully.
On 12 November the Sunday Post reported Ineos saying that it didn’t use Appleby for bonus payments, and had not used the firm for several years.
But Ineos annual reports in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 all mention that “non-voting issued share capital” was held by Appleby Trust (Jersey) as the trustee of an Ineos group share benefit trust and by Appleby Nominees (Jersey). The Ineos annual report for 2016 says that Estera performed the same role.
“The UK and the European Union should enact and implement rules to penalise companies that reside in offshore tax havens and push for full corporate financial transparency,” said the group’s policy advisor, Andy Gheorghiu.
“This should be in particular the case for a company that is ploughing billions into fossil fuels and petrochemical plants when we must act decisively to invest in clean, renewable energy.”
Ineos needs to be transparent about the tax dealings of their complex web of subsidiaries Dr Richard Dixon, Friends of the Earth Scotland
Friends of the Earth Scotland said it was no surprise that Ineos had dealings with the company at the heart of the Paradise Papers row. “Ineos needs to be transparent about the tax dealings of their complex web of subsidiaries,” said the environmental group’s director, Dr Richard Dixon.
The Tax Justice Network warned that the use of opaque offshore financial structures had become systemic. It estimated global revenue losses from multinational companies’ tax avoidance at around $500 (£380) billion a year.
“It’s extraordinary that we still tolerate these practices,” said the network’s chief executive, Alex Cobham.
“The UK already has legislation on the books to allow it to require multinationals to publish their country-by-country reporting, which would immediately lay bare the pattern of profit shifting, and allow the public to vote with their wallets about the level of tax avoidance they’re willing to tolerate.”
Ineos reiterated that it had never used deferred bonus payments, and had never used Appleby for them. “We confirmed that we had worked with Appleby in the past but had not used them for some time,” said a company spokesperson.
“For clarity, Ineos has used the fiduciary services division of Appleby for a number of years to act as the administrator for its employee equity plan. Ineos closed the equity plan two years ago, but a very small portion of equity continues to be held by the administrator on behalf of a small number of former employees.”
Ineos has never sought nor received any form of legal or tax advice from Appleby Spokesperson, Ineos
He added: “Ineos has never sought nor received any form of legal or tax advice from Appleby.”
Appleby has stressed that it is subject to frequent regulatory checks and there is no evidence of wrongdoing. “We are an offshore law firm that advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business,” said a company statement.
“We do not tolerate illegal behaviour,” it continued. Allegations made in the media “are unfounded and based on a lack of understanding of the legitimate and lawful structures used in the offshore sector”.