Chevron’s Bermuda companies under scrutiny
Bermuda has been in the spotlight in Australia as senators examine the tax affairs of big business.
An Australian senate committee set up to look at the tax affairs of major companies heard that oil giants Chevron had 200 companies registered in Bermuda and a further 200 registered in the low tax US state Delaware.
Chevron — the company behind Australia’s biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) project — also told the committee that Chevron Australia Transport, a Chevron subsidiary with a stake in a shipping firm, is owned by Chevron Australia Transport Bermuda.
Two of Chevron’s most senior executives appeared in front of the Senate committee on tax avoidance in the Australian capital Canberra last week.
Chevron Australia managing director Roy Krzywosinski said most international shipping companies are owned through Bermuda and the Island had a remarkable safety record.
But the company’s defence of its “open and transparent” dealing with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and denied the firm was a tax avoider.
Mr Krzywosinski said: “Chevron did not engage in any illegal activity or tax avoidance.”
But the defence did not impress the cross-party senate committee, who have spent months quizzing executives from global companies like Apple, Google and Uber.
Labour senator Sam Dastyari said: “We have spent a year trying to find Australia’s biggest tax dodger and we’ve found it.
“It’s Chevron. It continues what we’ve seen time and time again.”
And senator Dastyari described Chevron’s tax arrangements as “a rort” — Australian slang for taking unfair advantage.
He said: “The structures created by Chevron with its own internal structures are a rort. They’ve always been a rort.”
And Liberal Party senator Sean Edwards, a member of the conservative ruling coalition, attacked the company for its use of US and Australian dollar transactions to “minimise tax”.
Chevron was last month slapped with a $269 million bill for unpaid Australian taxes between 2004 and 2008 by a Federal Court.
Chevron said last week it would appeal the decision to the Australian High Court.
The Royal Gazette reported last month that Chevron is one of seven companies embroiled in a probe into corporate tax avoidance by the Australian government.
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 that Chevron and ExxonMobil, partners with Shell in the Western Australia LNG Gorgon gasfield, have a combined $87 billion in “unrepatriated profits” in accounts in low-tax jurisdictions.
The newspaper also reported that “a review of Chevron’s Australia business” had found that its largest LNG tanker, used to transport Australian gas to Asia, is Bermuda-owned.
Despite the 96,000-tonne Northwest Swan tanker flying the Bermuda flag since 2006, Australia appears to have been unaware that the ship was registered and owned on the Island.