Senate approves purchase of Rembrandt amid tax haven controversy

Part of The Standard Bearer by Rembrandt
Part of The Standard Bearer by Rembrandt

The Dutch senate has approved the state contribution of €150m to buy Rembrandt’s Standard Bearer pending a sale and purchase agreement, but at least one senator has questioned the legal construction of an already controversial deal.

The decision to purchase the painting, which costs €175m in total, did not go down well with many MPs at a time when the culture sector is struggling because of coronavirus restrictions. Nevertheless, both MPs and senators have given the green light to the purchase.

During the senate debate on Tuesday, independent MP Henk Otten pointed out the money is to be paid to a trust set up by the Rothschild family in the Cook Islands whose holding company is located in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, both of which are known tax havens. That set up was ‘revealed in the Panama papers for all to see,’ Otten said.

Otten went on to ask new junior culture minister Gunay Uslu if cooperating with such a construction was compatible with the stricter Dutch stance on tax evasion ‘particularly when freelancers are being fined if their VAT returns are a day late’.

In her answer Uslu said she saw no problems with the construction because ownership of the painting was transferred legitimately to the trust which has ‘no fiscal connection to the Netherlands’.

The deal to buy the Rembrandt is expected to be finalised in four weeks’ time. The painting will then do the the rounds of the Dutch provinces before taking its place at the Rijkmuseum’s gallery of honour.

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