Aircastle legally avoided paying taxes to the South African government by routing SAA’s cash to the tax haven of Mauritius, according to confidential financial statements reviewed by news agency QuartzAfrica.
According to documents leaked by a Mauritian law firm, Aircastle paid just $1.5 million in tax, at an effective rate of 2.87%, to the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, situated about 2,000 miles from Johannesburg and 9,200 miles from Aircastle’s Stamford, Connecticut, headquarters.
Quartz explains that through a complex scheme involving networks of subsidiaries, it likely avoided $14.8 million in taxes, compared to what it would have paid at the South African government’s business rates at the time. That’s more than double what Johannesburg – the country’s largest city, with 5 million people – spent on its social housing body in 2012-13.
Aircastle is officially registered in the tax haven of Bermuda and has subsidiaries in offshore sites Singapore and Ireland.
Without knowing it, most airline passenger have flown on an airplane owned by Aircastle Limited. The US-based company, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange and is valued at $1.6 billion, leases aircraft to, but not limited to United, American Airlines, British Airways, easyJet, and KLM.
The details of tax avoiding by Aircastle were exposed in documents, among a trove of some 200,000 confidential records – collectively known as the Mauritius Leaks -belonging to the former Mauritius office of Bermuda-based offshore law firm Conyers Dill & Pearman, which were given to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with dozens of journalists around the world, including reporters at Quartz.
Poor countries losing the most
The resulting investigation provides a glimpse into how foreign companies and investors have been able to take advantage of the former French colony’s tax code to profit at the expense of African nations.
Quatz reports that poorer countries lose up to $100 billion each year thanks to tax agreements with offshore jurisdictions like Mauritius, according to UN research. Fixing this imbalance, LeCompte said, is the only way for these nations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN in 2015, which established a series of economic and social benchmarks to be attained by 2030. On a broader scale, the Tax Justice Network, a research and advocacy group, estimates that multinationals shifting profits to tax havens costs the world’s governments more than $500 billion per year, with poorer countries losing the most as a percentage of GDP.