Greek shipping tycoons take shelter behind legendary Shearman tax clause
Both the new Greek government and the troika would like to see the country's shipping magnates contribute more to the country's financial restructuring but a 1953 clause in the constitution, said to be penned by Shearman & Sterling, is saving them.
The Union of Greek Shipowners - representatives of the largest merchant fleet in Europe - has an agreement in place under which its 478 members pay an average of €314,000 each, or €105m, a year. This amount cannot be increased before 2017 - thanks to Article 107 of the Greek constitution. This Article, according to The Financial Times, 'codified a Legislative Decree of 1953, that, according to legend, was written by Shearman & Sterling lawyers in New York'.
Even if the Greeks were to amend their constitution to satisfy the demands of the troika - the European Central Bank, the EU Commission and the International Monetary Fund - the Greek ships could almost overnight reflag themselves to Singapore, Monaco or some other country which would offer them a low tax rate.
Shearman & Sterling still has strength in the Greek shipping area. London-based partner Apostolos Gkoutzinis who gained his Law and Economics BA at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and makes regular appearances in the 'top 40 under 40' listings, has acted for Piraeus Bank (which is Greece's largest bank) and on the €400m refinancing of Global Ship Lease. Sources: Financial Times and Shearman
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