Dissatisfied with the origins of its government’s tax income, the small town of 3,500 people voted to donate tax paid by Ivan Glasenberg, the CEO of GlencoreXstrata, back to the developing countries where the company profits were made.
Glasenberg, the 175th richest man in the world, lives in the neighbouring town of Rüschlikon. In 2011, he paid 360m Swiss francs (US $395) in taxes. A big number, but nowhere near as big as his net worth of about $6.7 billion.
A recent redistribution programme in the Zurich region allocated the tax income to various towns and villages. Mining company Glencore has been accused of abusing labour, polluting the environment, and paying little in taxes in the countries where it mines, particularly developing countries.
The residents of Hedingen felt that they could not accept tax money which had been ‘tainted’ by its proximity to questionable business practices in poor countries. The community then voted 764 to 662 in favour of donating $121,000 of the redistributed tax money to non-governmental organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bolivia, and Colombia.
Local resident Samuel Schweizer explained that the people of Hedingen wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to give back some of the “extraordinary wealth to the people who should have received it in the beginning”. He went on, “We had a unique opportunity to raise public awareness. We felt we must share this with the people who are suffering from the operations of Glencore.”
Five other villages near Zurich have been inspired by the protest and will vote in the coming months on whether to do the same with their tax income. These village protests are perhaps a sign of Switzerland’s growing dissatisfaction with the use of its banking system to launder and channel funds generated through dodgy business practices.
If you’re feeling inspired by the citizens of Hedingen, there is something you can do too.
Tell EU leaders to crack down on phantom firms – a shady part of the financial system that enables corrupt officials and irresponsible businesses to hide their dodgy dealings and channel money to tax havens like Switzerland.