By Martin Kelly
The company, run by one of the biggest donors to the anti-independence campaign, has avoided paying tax on billions of pounds of profits, it has been reported.
According to the Independent newspaper, oil trading giant Vitol – headed by Ian Taylor – has been allowed to avoid paying tax on its London operations – with the blessing of HMRC.
The reports have led to renewed calls for Better Together head Alistair Darling to hand back a half million pound donation given to to the anti-independence alliance in 2013.
The newspaper says it has uncovered new documents showing how profits worth hundreds of millions have been moved from the UK to low-tax haven Switzerland.
The newspaper says: ‘Internal documents from the company’s London headquarters show in the past nine years it has paid an average of just 10.5 per cent tax on its global profits, which totalled nearly $15bn (£8.8bn) over the period. Last year it paid 2.6 per cent global tax on profits of $846m, the document from the parent company shows.’
The revelations will prove uncomfortable for the official No campaign and will resurrect controversy over a half million pound donation given to them by the head of Vitol, Ian Taylor.
In 2013 Alistair Darling faced intense criticism after refusing to hand back the cash despite Taylor’s company having links to war criminals.
It emerged the company had a track record involving fines and controversial deals in Iran, Iraq, Serbia and Libya – including Vitol giving the notorious Serb warlord Arkan $1 million. The company had paid $1 million to the former war criminal in order to secure an oil deal.
Arkan – real name Željko Ražnatović – was heavily involved in organised crime, and was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for war crimes which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians. He was assassinated in Belgrade in January 2000.
In another episode Vitol was revealed to have been fined $17.5 million after pleading guilty in the USA to charges of grand larceny relating to allegations of sanctions busting and payments to officials in former dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Scottish born businessman Ian Taylor, who became the Chief Executive of Vitol in 1995, has previously made substantial donations to the Conservative party, and attended a private dinner with Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street in November 2011. The Labour MP John Mann, a member of the Treasury Select Committee, described Mr Taylor’s donations to the Tory Party as ‘dirty money’.
In 2013 when his company’s dealings were exposed, Mr Taylor threatened the volunteer run pro-independence National Collective movement with court action, before dropping the charges in the midst of negative media coverage. Better Together refused to hand back the money given to it by the Vitol Chief Executive with Labour MP Alistair Darling, who heads the No campaign, saying he was “pleased” to have the support of the Conservative party backer.
The episode was raised in the House of Commons when SNP MP Angus Robertson questioned Prime Minister David Cameron over the issue.
Commenting on the latest news Mr Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster Leader, said:
“It just goes to show that while the UK Government punishes vulnerable and disabled people with cruel benefit cuts, Westminster works for the likes of Ian Taylor – no wonder he wants to keep the system exactly as it is, by giving half-a-million pounds to the No campaign.
“The Westminster system works for the few, for people like Ian Taylor – we want an independent Scotland because it will work for the many.
“With a Yes vote, tax collection in an independent Scotland will be made much more effective so that tax which is due is paid, making it fairer for everyone. A No vote would be a win for Ian Taylor, Vitol and tax avoidance.
“We know that Vitol gave the notorious Serb warlord Arkan $1 million. Arkan was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for ‘wilfully causing great suffering, cruel treatment, murder, wilful killing, rape and other inhumane acts’. This latest charge of tax-avoidance is just the latest episode in the Donorgate story.
“It is unbelievable that the No campaign is happy to accept these funds, and in light of these latest revelations Alistair Darling should at last do the decent thing and hand this donation back. The Taylor money was reportedly personally secured by Mr Darling, and if he does not hand this half-million pounds back, he is – as a former Chancellor – effectively condoning tax avoidance.”