The leaking of the so-called Panama Papers, with details of offshore financial information that “strips away the secrecy that cloaks companies and trusts incorporated in tax havens and exposes the people behind them,” have made headlines around the world. When the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the documents that name more than 360,000 people and companies behind secret offshore structures in tax havens such as Panama on May 9, nineteen of the documents were linked to Swaziland.
Obscure companies from around the world
The documents include more or less obscure companies such as the Fondation La Perle du Nil, registered in Mbabane, with jurisdiction in the British Virgin Islands and linked to Alpha Management Trading Ltd. in Dubai and the fittingly named Talent Profits Limited from Malaysia. It also includes individuals such as Ian and Helen McLaughlin, also registered in Mbabane and shareholders of the Bahamian-based Orca Gold Corporation International Limited.
There are links to individuals and companies from places such as Spain, Ecuador, Peru, Russia, the USA, The UK, Samoa, China and Hong Kong, hiding their assets mostly in the British Virgin Islands but also in Panama and Jersey. Although such companies are often created for tax evasion purposes, being on the Panama Papers list does not necessarily mean that they have done so.
The king pays no taxes
The corporate tax rate in Swaziland is 27.5 percent (down from 30 percent in 2013), which is the same as the average rate for Africa, below countries such as the USA (39 percent), India (34 percent) and South Africa (28 percent) but above the global average of 23 percent.
Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, a fund with a total worth of around USD 2 billion that in theory is held in trust for all Swazis, but in practice used as a private fund by King Mswati and the royal family, is exempt from taxes, as is the king himself.
By Peter Kenworthy, Afrika Kontakt
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