The world's three largest grain traders, responsible for the vast majority of global corn, soybean and wheat trading and processing, have been accused of large-scale tax evasion in a landmark series of cases being brought against them by the Argentinian government.
Afip, Argentina’s revenue and customs service is seeking to claim $476m for what it says are unpaid tax and duties from Bunge, $252m from Cargill and $140m from Dreyfus. The companies have all denied all the allegations and have said they will defend themselves vigorously.
"These companies have gone into criminality," Ricardo Echegaray, Afip CEO, said. "2008 was when agricultural commodities prices spiked and was the best year for them in prices, yet we could see that the companies with the biggest sales showed very little profit in this country."
Echegaray said he had evidence from his detailed inquiry that all four traders had submitted false declarations of sales and routed profits through tax havens or their headquarters, in contravention of Argentinian tax law.
He also alleged they had on occasion used phantom firms to buy grain. He further alleged that they had inflated costs in Argentina to reduce taxable profits or claim tax credits there.
Tax evading routes
Bunge was to have an office in the tax-free zone in Montevideo, capital of Uruguay, from which it began routing its exports after 2007, but without declaring gains to Argentina.
Bunge was expelled from the Argentine exporters' register last week.
Echegaray alleged that Cargill had also used Uruguay and Swiss subsidiaries to evade taxes in Argentina. Cargill, ADM and Dreyfus were suspended from the exporters' register by the government earlier this year as a result of the investigation.
All three companies deny the allegations.