Guy Verhofstadt, Group leader of European liberals, mentioned in Paradise Papers
The President of the ALDE group (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, was a director of a group that is featured in the Paradise Papers. This is revealed by the left-wing PTB-PVDA (Workers’ Party of Belgium) today. “In the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt is lecturing everyone. But as a director of the Exmar holding company he received 60,000 Euros per year. Why did he never object to the shadowy offshore constructions of subsidiary Exmar Offshore Ltd. on the Bermudas? We demand that the European Parliament start an investigation into the involvement of politicians in the Paradise Papers”, says Peter Mertens, chairman of the PTB-PVDA.The names of Nicolas Saverys and of the Antwerp shipping company Exmar, of which Saverys is CEO, appear in the Paradise Papers. Until April 2016, Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister and today Group leader of the Liberals in the European Parliament, was a director of Exmar.
The PTB-PVDA found the name of Nicolas Saverys in the database of the Paradise Papers as a director of two companies on the Bermudas: Exmar Offshore Ltd. and Benor Tankers Limited. According to the ranking on derijkstebelgen.be (the website of journalist Ludwig Verduyn, naming the richest Belgians), Nicolas Saverys is ranked 125th in the list of the largest Belgian assets, with a fortune of 158 million Euros. The Panama Papers already mentioned the name of Sebastiaan Saverys, the cousin of Nicolas Saverys.
The name of Exmar Offshore Ltd. can almost be considered a game of words. This company is not only focused on the industrial offshore activities of the group – dredging - but can also be named in strict tax terms as an offshore company. The company is on the list of subsidiaries in the consolidated accounts of the Exmar group. “Former director Guy Verhofstadt can therefore hardly claim that he was unaware of the existence of this society. He was a director of the holding company, the activities of Exmare Offshore Ltd. are mentioned in the consolidated accounts, and as a director he received 60,000 Euros annually precisely to be aware of that”, says Peter Mertens, chairman of the Belgian PTB-PVDA.
The other company in the Paradise Papers that is linked to Nicolas Saverys, Benor Tankers Limited, on the other hand, does not appear in the accounts of the group.
In these accounts we find other branches that are located in tax havens. Liberia specializes in 'cheap flags' and, following the example of Luxembourg, in financial constructions for maritime leasing. And it is precisely Exmar that has eight branches in Liberia and four in Luxembourg. The company also has eighteen branches in Hong Kong, one in Singapore, one in Cyprus, one in the British Virgin Islands, aside from the already mentioned subsidiaries on the Bermudas.
I remember very well the shouting match of Guy Verhofstadt in July 2015 against the Greek Prime Minister in the European Parliament. I then wrote an opinion piece that was shared more than 38,000 times. “The privileges of the shipowners must come to an end”, Verhofstadt shouted to the Greeks. But at the same time, he was a director of shipping company Exmar, which has the privilege of avoiding taxes in the Bermudas via Exmar Offshore Ltd. How hypocritical can you be? It is exactly that sort of conflict of interest and that kind of profiteering politics that more and more people are turning their back on”, says Peter Mertens, author of the book 'Graailand' (Land of Profiteers).
What is more: after the Panama Papers revelations in 2016, Verhofstadt vigorously challenged tax havens: "It is still too easy for many companies and individuals to avoid taxes abroad. This has to stop”, he said. Words and actions are apparently two entirely different things for the man.
“In the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt is lecturing everyone. But as a director of the Exmar holding company he received 60,000 Euros per year. Why did he never object to the shadowy offshore constructions of subsidiary Exmar Offshore Ltd. On the Bermudas? We ask the European Parliament to start an investigation into the involvement of politicians in the Paradise Papers, "says Peter Mertens, chairman of the PTB-PVDA.