Martijn Nouwen on Wopke Hoekstra’s investment in safari enterprise that escaped taxation in Africa
The Pandora Papers turned the spotlight on Wopke Hoekstra’s investment in an African safari company via a tax haven. Apparently, there was no tax evasion, but that does not seem to be the whole story. Martijn Nouwen, assistant professor in tax law, explains in Follow the Money how the safari enterprise seems to have used an aggressive tax planning scheme to escape taxation in Africa.
After the Panama Papers (2016) and the Paradise Papers (2017), the Pandora Papers (2021) shone the light on the tax affairs of politicians and some of the world’s wealthiest people. Multiple European political figures were mentioned in this massive leak of confidential records of offshore corporate service providers. Besides others, the Dutch Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra appeared in the papers.
Until his swearing-in as Dutch Finance Minister in 2017, Hoekstra was part of a private investment club that still uses a letterbox company in the British Virgin Islands, a well-known tax haven situated in the Caribbean. The investment club used the offshore vehicle to invest in the African safari enterprise Asilia Africa. Letterbox companies are often used to hide investments, especially from tax authorities.
But Hoekstra claimed he did not evade taxes. With his investment, he mainly wanted to do some good by supporting an old friend’s foreign venture. However, this is not all there is to it, according to Martijn Nouwen.