UK: Scottish Amazon warehouse now owned in tax haven after £6.3m grant.

As published on thenational.scot, Tuesday 14 July, 2020.

AMAZON'S Scottish distribution centre – which received £6.3 million in publicly funded grants – is now owned in a tax haven, according to new research.

Research by The Ferret fact-checking service found that Amazon's flagship Scottish centre, which is located just outside Dunfermline in Fife, is now owned by Spectre Property Company.

According to Registers of Scotland, Spectre is registered to an address in Jersey where no capital gains tax is payable, but it has not been possible to identify who ultimately controls the firm.

It was reported in 2017 that the Amazon warehouse was sold to Kuwait-based Kamco Invest for around £61m.

The site of the warehouse was originally owned jointly by public sector bodies Fife Council and Scottish Enterprise. They sold the site for £1m to a private company, providing £6.3m to for its development. It has since been sold twice – once in 2012 for £43.2m and again to Kamco in 2017, for a reported £61m.

Scottish Enterprise, which gave taxpayers’ money to Amazon, said the firm had created 950 jobs and that £52m had been invested in Scotland through the creation of the warehouse.

But politicians and tax experts have questioned why tax-payers did not benefit more from the deal after an “explosive increase” in the value of the site. They were also concerned that profits have been funelled through opaque deals with ownership of the centre now held offshore.

Amazon founder and chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos, is the world’s richest man whose net wealth was reported to have risen to $171.6 billion earlier this month. The company has been repeatedly accused of underpaying corporation tax in the UK.

Its vast Fife warehouse – said to be the size of 14 football pitches – opened in 2011 and holds millions of products.

When the Amazon centre opened in 2011, it was seen as a coup for Scottish Enterprise, witht the company creating 750 new permanent jobs in Fife.

Amazon apparently has a lease on the warehouse until 2031. Amazon declined to comment on its relationship with Spectre.

Alex Cobham, chief executive of the Tax Justice Network, said: “Substantial sums of public funds seem to have underpinned an explosive increase in property value, which has then been captured as purely private profit.

“Then that private profit seems to have been taken offshore and out of the scope of capital gains tax, without it ever being possible to identify the ultimate beneficial owners. This raises so many questions for Scottish Enterprise, Fife Council, Amazon and indeed for those behind the various opaque vehicles that have held legal ownership of this land at different times."

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