SKAT cheated out of a quarter of a billion kroner

Ukrainians used Danish holding company and administrator to avoid tax bill

Ukraine’s biggest pharmaceutical company, Darnitsa, with the help of a Danish company administrator, has cheated the Danish tax authorities SKAT out of 256 million kroner, Børsen reports.

READ MORE: Danish companies being misused for international economic crime

Darnitsa was owned by a Danish holding company, Nord Star Pharmashare, until the Danish company went bankrupt in 2012. Børsen obtained access to witness statements, company records and financial documentation in a tax case against the company to show how the company managed to dodge the tax bill.

Lawyer implicated
The Danish lawyer Philip Comerford provided the registered address for Nord Star at his office in Frederiksberg. He also acted as managing director, board member and company administrator.

According to his own witness testimony, Comerford never communicated directly with Darnitsa’s management in Ukraine, despite signing off on the holding company’s accounts year after year, reports Børsen. He was also unaware of the identity of the company’s ultimate beneficial owner.

Critical of lawyer's role
Boris Frederiksen of the Danish government’s legal advisory firm Kammeradvokaten is critical of Comerford’s role in the Ukrainian company dodging the quarter-of-a-billion-kroner tax bill.

“Philip Comerford has helped them organise the ownership in a completely obscure way,” he said.

“His conduct in alternating between administrator, managing director and board member has contributed to making it impossible to scrutinise where the assets have gone.”

The 256 million kroner tax bill relates to a transaction in 2007 in which 20 percent of Darnitsa was sold. The transaction was registered as a 179 million kroner loss, but SKAT believes that in reality it gave rise to a taxable profit of 766 million kroner.

The tax court ruled in SKAT’s favour in 2012, but the Danish company has since gone bankrupt and been stripped of its assets. It has been impossible for liquidators to determine what became of the assets because there were no documents relating to the bookkeeping.

Dangerous precedent
Comerford was reported to the Copenhagen police for his role in the case, but the police have judged there weren’t grounds for a criminal case.

A legal professor, Lars Bo Langsted of Aalborg University, sees this decision as being highly problematic.

“It makes it completely cost-free to insert a puppet to help hide the money trail,” he said.

“It’s just inviting people to continue and more to follow suit.”

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