SCOTLAND’S biggest airports are owned in tax havens, The Herald can reveal.

Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports – once in public ownership – are all wholly or partially controlled through secretive offshore jurisdictions.

Official filings show that the capital’s hub – the main gateway for visitors to Scotland – is ultimately in the hands of an off-the-shelf company registered in the Cayman Islands.

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Picture: the Cayman Islands

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And Glasgow and Aberdeen airports are both owned by the same series of companies half-owned offshore, in the Channel Islands tax haven of Jersey.
The businesses, all of which used to be part of the privatised and then broken-up British Airports Authority, argue it is “not uncommon” for infrastructure assets to be owned through so-called fiscal paradises like Jersey or the Caymans. 

However, former prime minister David Cameron has previously urged more transparency in both the Cayman Islands and Jersey as he came under pressure from EU and G8 partners to close loopholes in territories linked to Britain.

Yesterday, The Herald revealed whisky giant Whyte and Mackay is  also owned by a company based in a tax haven

This came after The Sunday Herald revealed offshore ownership in Scottish football clubs.

MSP Andy Wightman, who represents Lothians for the Scottish Greens, raised concerns over what he saw as the opaque ownership of Edinburgh Airport.

He said: “As a strategic part of Scotland’s transport infrastructure, it is in the public interest that its corporate structure, ownership and accounting is fully transparent. Unless this is achieved, it is impossible to be sure in whose interests decisions about the future of the airport are being taken.”

Companies House filings show Edinburgh Airport Limited was bought in 2014 by a UK entity called Green Bidco which is owned by Green Topco, a limited company registered in Grand Cayman. Business information sites list this enterprise as being related to another firm, called Green Topco in Luxembourg.

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Edinburgh Airport itself says it is largely owned and run by Global Infrastructure Partners or GIP, a private equity firm based in New York and Stamford, Connecticut, which also owns Gatwick Airport. 

However, GIP’s own website clarifies that its corporate entity is Global Infrastructure Management, LLC, based in Delaware, an American state routinely described as a tax haven, including by the New York Times.

Gordon Dewar, of Edinburgh Airport

HeraldScotland: Gordon Dewar

Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airport’s chief executive, said: “The airport is owned by a supportive international investment fund, which has invested £55m in the last three years in improving the airport for passengers and staff, with a further £20m committed for 2016. The airport now provides employment for over 6,000 people and supports 23,000 jobs across Scotland, contributing £1bn to the Scottish economy every year. 

“Since 2012, Edinburgh Airport has paid £55m of tax, with £22.7m of corporation, employment, sales and property related taxes in 2015.”

Glasgow and Aberdeen airports are both owned by a firm called AGS Airports, a joint venture, press reports and publicity say, of a Spanish infrastructure firm called Ferrovial and American partner Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA) of New York. 

However, AGS Airports Limited is owned by these partners through holding companies elsewhere. 

Glasgow Airport

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Companies House listings show that AGS Airports Limited is owned by AGS Airports Holding Limited which in turn is owned by two companies. One is is Faero UK Holding Limited, owned by a Dutch firm called Hubco Netherlands BV, a subsidiary of Ferrovial. The other is called AGS Ventures Airports Limited, registered in the tax haven of St Helier, Jersey, and ultimately controlled by MIRA.

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A spokesman for MIRA said: “AGS Ventures Limited, while Jersey-registered, is a UK tax resident company, is subject to corporation tax in the UK as is any other tax resident company. 

“The operating companies within AGS Airports also pay corporation tax in the UK.”

Do you know of a Scottish business or property owned in an overseas tax haven? Or of a Scottish company used as a vehicle to avoid tax overseas? Then please contact me, David Leask, at david.leask@theherald.co.uk