Seadrill strikes deal after Svalbard tax haven flop

Norwegian shipping magnate John Fredriksen has reportedly reached a secret deal with Norway's tax authorities after a plan to use the Arctic Svalbard Islands as a tax haven for his Seadrill business was rejected.

Seadrill strikes deal after Svalbard tax haven flop
West Navigator, one of Seadrill's drillships. Photo: Seadrill
Seadrill, Fredriksen's oil rig company, has refused to pay the giant $263 million tax bill it was given by Norway's tax authorities in 2010 after the Svalbard plan was quashed. 
But on April 30, shortly before the company was due to fight the levy in court, it signed a secret deal with the government. 
"The tax administration cannot comment on this issue," the agency's press officer Arne Lutro told Norway's Dagens Næringsliv business paper. 
Seadrill relocated four of its oil rigs to a subsidiary registered in Svalbard at the end of the 2007-2008 financial year, making its main employee in Longyearbyen briefly Svalbard's biggest individual taxpayer. 
Svalbard had established a corporate tax rate of just 16 percent for large businesses in an attempt to lure companies to set up in the region.  Seadrill estimates that in 2007 alone, it saved $75 million from the move. 
But in 2010, when the ruse became public, the tax authorities moved to change the Svalbard tax regime, and Seadrill quickly closed down its Svalbard operations.  In 2011, the tax authorities hit Seadrill with the tax bill, which relates to capital gains it made during its time registered on the islands. 
Fredriksen is far and away the richest person of Norwegian origin, with Forbes Magazine estimating his fortune at $18bn. He became a citizen of Cyprus in 2006 for tax reasons. 

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Norway digitally freezes national treasures and stores them in Arctic archive

Norway’s National Museum has preserved some of the country’s most treasured artefacts digitally and stored them in a former mine on Arctic archipelago Svalbard.

Norway digitally freezes national treasures and stores them in Arctic archive
Photo: Bartek Luks on Unsplash

The Arctic World Archive was originally constructed in 2017 to “protect the world’s most important cultural relics”, the National Museum said on its website.

The data preservation facility is located on the island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard archipelago, not far from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The National Museum has now placed its entire collection of around 400,000 items as digital copies on plastic film rolls, which are to be stored at the Longyearbyen site.

“The dry, cold and low-oxygen air gives optimal conditions for storing digital archives and the film rolls will have a lifetime of around 1,000 years in the archive,” the museum writes. Emissions emitted by the archive are low due to its low energy consumption.

Offline storage of the archives also insures them against cyber attacks, the museum said.

In addition to all data from the National Museum collection database, high-resolution digital images of works by selected artists are included in the archive.

Works to be stored include ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch, ‘Winter Night in the Mountains’ by Harald Sohlberg, the Baldishol Tapestry and Queen Maud’s ball dress.

“At the National Museum we have works from antiquity until today. We work with the same perspective on the future. The collection is not only ours, but also belongs to the generations after us,” National Museum director Karin Hindsbo said via the museum’s website.

“By storing a copy of the entire collection in the Arctic World Archive, we are making sure the art will be safe for many centuries,” Hindsbo added.

In addition to the Norwegian artefacts, organisations from 15 other countries are represented in the archive, including national museums in Mexico, Brazil and India; the Vatican library, Sweden’s Moderna Museet and Unicef.

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