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Governments & Offshore

Finnish Finance Minister Calls State-Owned Postal Company’s Links to Tax Havens ‘Repulsive’

State-owned postal company Itella has three subsidiaries in Cyprus and one in the British Virgin Islands, records show.

Itella has three subsidiaries in Cyprus and one in the British Virgin Islands, records show.

Finnish state-owned postal company Itella has offshore subsidiaries in both Cyprus and the BVI, documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists show.

The revelation comes at a time when the Finnish government promised to be at the frontline of the fight against tax evasion. Since 2011, Finland has explored the possibility of adopting a stricter set of criteria for tax havens, surpassing the standards applied by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Itella, part of the National Mail Company, has had four subsidiaries in tax havens over the past five years; three in Cyprus and one in the British Virgin Islands.

In 2008, Itella bought the Russian logistics company NLC International Corporation, which was registered in the BVI with subsidiaries in Cyprus. Internal documents obtained by the ICIJ and MOT/Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE, show that the transaction was made through the offshore firm Commonwealth Trust Limited.

The director of Itella Logistics in Russia, Vesa Vertanen, said in an interview with Finnish state television that Itella is going to dissolve the company in the BVI by the end of this year and move it to Cyprus.

Cyprus is a known tax haven favored by Russians who want to hold assets offshore.   

When asked why Itella had not dissolved its company in the BVI, Vertanen claimed that it was very complicated and time consuming to close offshore companies.

Vertanen’s assertion was countered by a representative of the Finnish tax authority, who said it is fairly easy to get rid of an offshore company. 

Jutta Urpilainen, the Finnish finance minister and an outspoken critic of tax havens, said she found the Itella revelation “surprising.”

Urpilainen said it was likely there are other Finnish state-owned companies that have connections to the offshore world. “That’s why I think this kind of revelation is very welcome, although repulsive.”

“I would consider it important that state-owned companies serve as examples for other business. That’s why it is particularly unacceptable that Itella owns a company in a tax haven.”

To tackle the challenges posed by the offshore economy, Urpilainen proposed that the Finnish government adopt clear rules for state-owned companies with links to tax havens, which she called “one of the biggest threats to the Finnish welfare state.”

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