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Australians grill Chevron over Bermuda links

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Published Sep 22, 2015 at 8:00 am

  By Raymond Hainey                                                                                   The Royal Gazette 


Oil and gas multinational Chevron has come under fire in Australia for using Bermuda for tax avoidance.

US-based Chevron, along with Anglo-Dutch firm Shell and the American ExxonMobil, is set to begin production at the massive Gorgon gasfield off the coast of Western Australia.

But Chevron has been grilled by the Australian Senate economics references committee about its links to Bermuda — described by the prestige Sydney Morning Herald as a “tax haven”.

Now Chevron has been asked to reveal its links to “secrecy jurisdictions” and provide details of financial transactions involving subsidiaries over the last five years.

The oil company is one of seven facing a probe by the Australian federal government into corporate tax avoidance.

All the companies have been criticised for using offshore subsidiaries to cut their tax bills in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald said that financial accounts showed a Chevron and ExxonMobil have a combined $87 billion in “unrepatriated profits” in accounts in low-tax and no tax jurisdictions.

And the newspaper added that a “review of Chevron’s Australia business” had found that its largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker, used to transport Australian gas to Asia, is owned by Bermuda-based Chevron Transport Corporation.

Despite the 96,000 tonne Northwest Swan tanker flying the Bermuda flag since 2006, Australia appears to have been unaware the ship was owned and registered in Bermuda.

Chevron Transport Corporation — one of 297 Bermuda-registered companies with Chevron in its name, according to the Herald — is the parent of Chevron Australia China LNG Transport Pty Ltd, a company registered in Australia.

Its first director is Roy Krzywosinski, the managing director of Chevron in Australia, who is also a director of Chevron Australia Transport, Australian Securities & Investment Commission, according to Australian Securities and Investment Commission records.

Two of the seven directors of that company are Bermuda residents, with Debra Flood, of Warwick, listed as company secretary, while a firm registered in Bermuda shares the same name of Chevron Australia Transport.

The Herald said that Chevron did not respond to requests for comment.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), which represents employees on the gasfields off the coast of Western Australia said it had been examining Chevron’s corporate structure.

ITF researcher Jason Ward said he “can’t see any other reason” why Chevron would register companies in Bermuda other than to cut its tax bills in Australia and elsewhere.

Paddy Crumlin, president of the ITF, said Chevron’s business in Bermuda should be investigated by the Australian Senate committee.

He added: “A light needs to be shone into the corporate structure of these huge global companies so that Australians can be confident the public is getting a fair tax take from those making massive profits our of the nation’s resources.”

The Royal Gazette reported last month that top executives from global firms like Google, Apple and Microsoft all appeared before the Australian committee.

Google came under fire last year for funnelling billions to Bermuda after the firm revealed nearly $12 million had been sent to the Island to avoid paying tax on its profits.

Australia in May announced it would become the third country in the world to enter into new transfer pricing documentation standards to crack down on multinational tax avoidance.

The Australian senate committee is also expected to recommend that all companies should disclose every year how much money they made in Australia, how much tax they paid, tax deductions and other government write-offs.