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Western airlines hired secret agents to unearth Gulf subsidies

|TAP Special| US airlines companies hired secret accountants to unearth how Gulf governments subsidized their airlines, including Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, western media has reported.

As the battle intensifies over U.S. airlines’ allegations of unfair state subsidies to three Persian Gulf rivals, American carriers have been gathering data to support their claims sheds light on the vast financial reporting divide between the two sides.

The U.S. carriers claim the documents they found show the Gulf trio has received $42 billion in subsidies and unfair benefits since 2004, including about $17 billion for Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, and $16 billion for Doha-based Qatar Airways. The Gulf carriers say they are commercial enterprises that aren’t state subsidized.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Delta hired investigators to dig into their financial histories. The three U.S. carriers say their gumshoes discovered about a year ago that they could request and obtain copies of financial statements for the three from corporate registry offices in some countries where the Gulf airlines operate.

The investigators are said to have searched in nearly 30 jurisdictions, assembling their dossier mostly from documents filed in the U.K., Singapore, Australia, India, Belgium and Ireland, said Jill Zuckman, spokeswoman for the U.S. airlines’ coalition, called Partnership for Open & Fair Skies. They also used bond-offering prospectuses for the Gulf carriers and their governments to compile the information.

Western airlines allege interlocking relationships among the Gulf governments, airlines, airport authorities and aviation service providers. The U.S. airlines said they amassed 44 documents totaling 1,021 pages. The Wall Street Journal has viewed many of them, at least one of which is in Flemish. Among other information, they indicate that international auditors at times endorsed two of the airlines as viable businesses—or “going concerns”—contingent on further financial backing from their shareholders.