Big energy and mining groups 'hide accounts using secrecy jurisdictions'

Source: The Guardian
Date: 20 Sep 2021

More than a third of the subsidiaries owned by major energy and mining companies including Shell, BP and Glencore are based in “secrecy jurisdictions” where company accounts are not publicly available, according to a report.

The study by Publish What You Pay Norway, which campaigns for transparent accounting among oil, gas and mining giants, claims that populations in resource-rich countries are losing out because they are unable to extract financial information from businesses operating on their soil or off their seaboards.

“Extractive industry giants’ corporate ownership structures, their use of secrecy jurisdictions and the lack of meaningful information they impart is a major reason why stakeholders in resource-rich nations often meet a wall of silence when asking questions,” says the report. “This makes it very difficult to hold their politicians and the companies that extract oil, gas and minerals to account.”

The report defines “secrecy jurisdiction” as a location where companies are incorporated but accounts and beneficial ownership details are not publicly available. The definition of a secrecy jurisdiction was based primarily on three sources: a list of offshore financial centres published by the International Monetary Fund; a list drawn up by the US tax collection body; and a secrecy index by the non-governmental organisation the Tax Justice Network. The report stressed that there was nothing in the companies’ behaviour that suggested that they evaded tax illegally.

Under those definitions, secrecy jurisdictions include the US state of Delaware, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland – as well as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. According to the report, 10 of the largest extractive industry companies had 2,087 subsidiaries in secrecy jurisdictions. The 10 included Shell, BP and Glencore.

The report’s author, Nick Mathiason, said: “Extractive industry majors organise their ownership structure to ensure their revenues and profits are kept as far away from the source of their mines and fields and in a way that makes it all but impossible for citizens to get a true appreciation of the assets.“A spokesman for Shell said the company paid $15.4bn in corporate taxes last year and is a founder of a transparency drive for energy and mining majors.

A BP spokesman said: “We are committed to paying the taxes we incur in the jurisdictions in which we operate.”

A spokesman for Glencore, the commodity trading and mining group, said: “Glencore recently published its first Sustainability Report where it stated its commitment to joining the EITI [Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative] and providing a breakdown of its tax payments by region.”

Dan Milmo

The Guardian