Research by hundreds of international journalists shows that many politicians and financial directors worldwide invest privately through ‘smart’ constructions in tax havens to avoid taxes in their own country. Although the private investments are legally permitted, they go against the ambition of banks and the Dutch government, among others, to contain this kind of ‘smart’ financial constructions via tax havens.
De Swaan explains in his published e-mail that he has “invested in the company of a friend, former ABN Amro colleague Jeroen Harderwijk, out of sincere intentions” and has always declared his investments to the tax authorities. He also writes that “the investment is not for tax avoidance or worse.”
According to the ABN spokesperson, there is “nothing technically wrong” with the private investment. But the management of the company, which concerns the safari park project Asilia in East Africa, “could have opted for a foundation in the Netherlands when it was founded”, instead of a letterbox company in the British Virgin Islands.
De Swaan immediately distances himself from the investment and says that he “will donate it to the founders of Asilia so that it is once more clear what the intention of this investment was.” According to the ABN spokesman, it is not yet the case that ABN Amro will impose new rules on employees and directors in the field of private investments. “If that happens, it would apply to the entire industry.” The spokesperson expects that the last word has not yet been said.
Until his appointment as minister in October 2017, outgoing minister Wopke Hoekstra (Finance) was also co-owner of the letterbox company. Furthermore, the names of financial directors Maarten Muller, supervisory director at Van Lanschot Kempen, and Alexandra Schaapveld, supervisory director at the French bank Société Générale and, until mid-2020, supervisor at development bank FMO are mentioned.