Coca-Cola’s Swaziland subsidiary helped it stay involved in apartheid So. Africa, generates “unaccountable billions” for Swazi monarchy - investigative report

Author: Khadija Sharife, 100Reporters (USA), Published on: 9 February 2016

"Trade Secrets: Coca-Cola’s Hidden Formula for Avoiding Taxes", 3 Dec 2015

Companies like Coke financed the makings of the [apartheid] regime... Prime Minister John Vorster singled out these multinationals as “bricks in the walls of the regime’s continued existence.”...Coke stepped into Swaziland, incorporating Coca-Cola Conco (1986), almost in tandem with the entrance of a new King, Mswati. A year later, the company had a concentrate plant up and running, exporting to its biggest regional buyer – South Africa...with the desired proximity, total legal and financial secrecy...essentially providing tax haven-like services to the company... (Swaziland’s revenue agency and Coca-Cola declined to comment).

These days, Coca-Cola is the single most powerful private entity in Swaziland; at last count, the source behind over 22 percent of GDP and 38 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings...

Coke informed us that the company uses no sugar produced in Swaziland (the actual list of countries supplying sugar to Coca-Cola is confidential), but the company is part of the system generating unaccountable billions for the monarchy through intertwined interests, such as a minority shareholding in the State-owned sugar exporter, the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation...The actual value of Coca-Cola’s business in Swaziland – its operating costs, profits and losses, intra-company loans and interest rates, etc., is just one of Coke’s many trade secrets.

[Although] the company declined to answer most of [the questions posed by the researchers], requesting a teleconference, in which Coke’s media and public affairs director instead asked reporters to explain the interest in Coke’s financial and tax structures,...[r]esponding to...questions on Coke’s financial structure and tax rate in totality, Coke stated, “In 2014 the Company paid approximately $2 billion (USD) in corporate income tax globally – as stated in our annual filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the effective global tax rate for the Company was 23.6% in 2014.”...

To claim rightful revenues, governments must make country-by-country reporting mandatory, disclosing the substance of corporate form and function involving both subsidiaries and transactions. Internally developed intangible capital must be located on financial statements not simply as expenses but also, as assets, where the value really inheres...both financially articulated at fair value rate. Finally, the use of legal and financial secrecy jurisdictions where economic activity does not occur must be disallowed. 

[Also refers to Google, and to 2004 US Senate investigation on use of offshore funds, including by Pepsi, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Merck, IBM, Intel, Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Microsoft]

Read the full post here

Related companies: Alphabet Bristol-Myers Squibb Coca-Cola Eli Lilly Google (part of Alphabet) IBM Intel Merck Microsoft PepsiCo Pfizer Procter & Gamble