Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2015 10:58 am Post subject: Agreement between Portugal and the Imamat
The Agreement between the Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat was signed the 8th May 2009. This agreement was a precursor to much important Protocols to be signed in the future and facilitate the establishment of the Seat of Imamat in Portugal
Posted: Fri Jan 15, 2016 11:27 pm Post subject: benefits to the Ismaili community & Portugal, De Negocio
Jornal de Negocios 14 Jan 2016
The Government gives super fiscal benefits to Prince Aga Khan
Lisbon will be the “Santa Se” (Vatican) for 15 million Ismailis
The Agreement includes super fiscal benefits
There will be money and employment for Portugal
Who is Prince Aga Khan?
Subtitle: Spiritual leader of the Ismailis, the Aga Khan is the owner of a vast fortune, moves among world leaders and supports social projects.
The Government gives super fiscal benefits to attract Prince Aga Khan
The Ismaili community seat will come to Lisbon with fiscal benefits for the community and its leader, the magnate and prince Aga Khan, granted in accordance with the diplomatic statute, as if it were a foreign country. The project will bring more jobs and social and scientific assistance.
The setting up of the world seat of the Ismaili community in Lisbon will be performed with fiscal benefits for the Prince Aga Khan and his community, comparable to the ones given to foreign countries. The spiritual leader and the Imamat will be exempt from most of the taxes, will not be subject to the fiscal courts and will have an irreversible agreement for the next 25 years. In exchange for these exemptions, there will be more money and employment.
The agreement for the establishment of the Ismaili seat in Lisbon was signed on 3 June 2015, in the presence of Passos Coelho and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Rui Machete, but its terms have only become final after the ratification by the President of the republic in end-October. The significant proximity of the Ismaili community to Portugal, its political and economic influence, as well as its social print through the Aga Khan Foundation, have resulted in the agreement being approved with a large consensus in the Parliament, with only one abstention from PCP (the BE made a voting declaration but voted in favour).
Analysing in detail the fiscal benefits, one can conclude that these are more extensive and extensive than anticipated in the Religious Freedom Law (Lei da Liberdade Religiosa). The Imamat (the “church”) and the Imam (or imã, the spiritual leader) will benefit from very extensive exemptions in patrimony tax, income tax tax and over transactions performed under their official functions.
Paulo Ferreira Alves, partner in BDO, who gives fiscal support to some entities of the Catholic church, explains to Negocios that the major differences between the Religious Freedom Law (Lei da Liberdade Religiosa) and the Concordata (Agreement with the Catholic church) are mainly at the level of personal exemptions granted to prince Aga Khan. “The religious entities have fiscal exemptions but in the canonic legal person (that is, the “church”). The spiritual leaders are taxed on the income from the religious activity and patrimony”. But in the agreement there are also differences in the treatment of the institutions themselves: for example, while in the case of the Catholic church the income from donations will have to pay taxes (such as the rent of a building that was donated), in the case of the Imamat these will not be payable.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Same status does not acquiesce with comparisons
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MNE) which was headed by Rui Machete, rejects that the possibility of making this comparison since what is in stake in this case is to regulate the conditions for the implantation of a organization in Portugal: “The comparison between this agreement and the Catholic church agreement (Concordata) is abusive since the Concordata regulates the situation from the religious point of view and also from the social and patrimonial aspects of the Portuguese Catholic church, while this agreement regulates the administrative aspects of the Seat and the structure for the support of the Imam, as well as its official status, in an institutional perspective and not exclusively religious or confessional”, said an official source in November.
That is what explains that this agreement establishes “a set of immunities and privileges similar to those that are granted in the diplomatic area to international organizations”. That is, the Ismaili Imamat is not a State but Portugal has decided to grant it the same privileges in a contractual base. This special prerogative dates back to 2005 and was now extended to the agreement to attract the seat of the religion that congregates 15 million believers in the whole world (identical to the dimension of the Jew community) to Lisbon.
To Paulo Alves the comparison is not 100% accurate. As per the international conventions that regulate the diplomatic status, the Portuguese government acts under a logic of reciprocity (its ambassadors in other countries have the same prerogatives) and the exemptions are granted assuming that the diplomatic persons are subject to tax obligations in the country of origin. In this case, “there is no country of origin, as such the situations are not completely comparable”. It was on a voluntary basis that Portugal granted these benefits, as such they should be extensive to other religions. Ï understand that this may be the price to pay to bring the seat to the country and admit that the price may be balanced, but it is still unfair to other religious confessions, namely the Catholic church, considering the importance that the institution has in Portugal”, he adds.
Subtitle: Price Aga Khan signed an agreement with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rui Machete.
The Agreement: Some of the fiscal benefits that are contemplated
The fiscal benefits are wider than foreseen in the Religious Freedom Law (Lei da Liberdade Religiosa), being similar to the ones that the Portuguese government grants reciprocally to foreign countries and their high dignitaries, under international conventions.
Income from Donations
The donations that are invested and generate income don’t pay taxes – neither from the Imamat (the church) side, nor from the Imam’s side (the spiritual leader). There is only one exception for the interest of financial applications performed by residents in Portugal or in connection with Portugal. But for example, if the interests are paid by a foreign bank with no branch in Portugal, there will be an exemption. In the case of the Catholic church, taxes are always paid. If the church applies the donations in a deposit, taxes will be paid on the interest received; if it receives a building as a donation and rents it, taxes will have to be paid on the rents received.
If he receives any remuneration related to his functions as a spiritual leader, the Prince Aga Khan and whoever succeeds him will be exempt from the IRS (tax over individual income). In other religious confessions, the remuneration fr the exercise of pastoral activities is subject to the payment of the IRS (in the case of the Catholic church, since 2004).
Acquisition, selling and possession of real estate from the Ismaili Imamat allocated to the diplomatic functions are exempt of all taxes. The exemption is extensible to the spiritual leader, Prince Aga Khan, in all acquisitions for the exercise of his functions. In the Catholic church, the rules are not very different: places for cult are exempt of IMI, as well as buildings and installations for the purpose of religious activities. The so called “priest’s house” is also exempt of taxes. Similarly, the Catholic church does not pay taxes on transmission of these assets. The priests pay these taxes.
Cars, boats, airplanes
Cars, boats, airplanes, including extra parts and consumables, are exempt of any taxes or duties on purchase, possession, register, utilization or selling. This exemption is applicable to the religious confession as well as to its spiritual leader, Prince Aga Khan, under his official functions.
Income from abroad
Prince Aga Khan will be exempt of payment of taxes on any kind of income received from abroad. Here, if a religious leader receives rents, pensions, interests, etc from abroad, he will have to pay taxes on the difference between what is charged here and what is charged abroad if there is an agreement for the elimination of double taxation (if not, then the double can be payable). As per an official source from Minister Rui Machete, given the “specificity of the figure of the Imam, the treatment that was granted is comparable in terms of IRS (tax for singular income) to the treatment granted to diplomatic agents, the NATO officers and to non-frequent residents”.
The divergences that may originate from the agreement will be undertaken out of the Portuguese courts. For this purpose, a committee will be formed with three elements from the Imamat and three elements from the state. The tax divergences are here included. The Concordata foresees that queries regarding the interpretation of its text should be treated in a parity commission and it does not include fiscal questions – these are under the umbrella of the tax courts.
“The Portuguese population will be much benefited”
The Ismaili community, with 15 million muslims spread all over the world, will have in Lisbon its ‘Santa Se” (Vatican). The project promises to mobilize employment and money.
For Nazim Ahmad, it is not time yet to talk about projects and numbers, but the head of the Ismaili Imamat delegation and the Aga Khan Development Network in Portugal has no doubts that the “Portuguese population will be much benefited” with the establishment of the seat of the religious confession in Portugal.
The news will be provided in the right time but the expectation is that direct effects will be felt immediately in the area of investment and creation of employment. “Portugal will be the global seat of the Imamat. It is from Lisbon that the 15 million community of Ismailis spread around the world will be managed. The world community will be much interested in investing in Portugal”, Nazim Ahmad explains to the Negocios. In addition to this, there will also be new employment positions. In total, the media is talking about hundreds of positions to be created, some of them to be filled by staff that will be transferred from the international delegations of the Imamat and another part to be filled by local individuals – “there will be a need of human resources in all areas”, Nazim Ahmad confirms without giving numbers.
In parallel to these direct effects, there will also be a widening of projects that are supported through the Aga Khan Foundation. At least that was the idea behind Pedro Passos Coelho’s speech during the signature of the formal agreement: “The decisive step taken today will allow the increasing cooperation – which was until now focused on the social area – and the Ismaili Imamat will also assist the Portuguese institutions dedicated to research of excellence in the various areas of knowledge”, said the former prime minister.
As for the fiscal advantages that the religious institution will benefit from as a result of fixing its seat in Lisbon, Nazim Ahmad does not see them as compensations but more as an integral part of a “global agreement” which will translate in the natural development of a relationship of three decades.
Nazim reminds that the special prerogatives granted by the Portuguese government to the Ismaili Imamat are not recent – they have been developing throughout the years. Specifically the diplomatic status that gives the religious entity the same benefits as in the case of a foreign country or an international organization, it goes back to 2005. It was that status that allowed the establishment of the religious community which has many delegations all over the world but no central seat, to be negotiated under the same logic.
Besides Portugal, Canada had also granted the diplomatic status to the Ismaili Imamat and, as per the media, it was this country that competed with Portugal for the establishment of the Ismaili Seat.
Karim’s lengthy walk
Spiritual leader of the Ismailis, the Aga Khan also has a very materialistic side: owner of an extremely large fortune, he moves amongst world leaders and is active in social projects. His personal life many times comes to public.
In 1996, Prince Amyn Aga Khan visited Lisbon. Elegant and diplomatic, the director of the Aga Khan Foundation had as a special guest at the gala dinner - the President of the Portuguese Republic, Mario Soares. Amyn spoke about the oscillating community that he represented, the Ismaili, “characterized, despite the geographic distances, by its coherence and characteristics”. The long relationship that would take place many years after was gaining strength. And the first shape of Amyn’s eldest brother was gaining shape: the also prince Karim Aga Khan, leader of the Ismaili community.
The Aga Khan Foundation in Portugal was born in that same year as a branch of the one existing in Geneva. The connection had been made at the highest level. It was the first step of a long walk which, two decades after allowed the Shia minority of approximately 15 million followers to find an official residency: Portugal.
Having strayed from Canada’s interest, Karim Aga Khan IV chose our country as the world seat of the Ismaili community. The official residence of the prince and Imam of the Ismailis will also be in Portugal, where an active community lives (approximately seven thousand Khoja Ismailis, of indian origin and with roots in Mozambique). It has strong economic connections, as is evident, in the Sana group and in Sacoor Brothers.
The centralization of activities in Portugal will bring to our country the investments from the Foundation in the scientific area, in medicine and in cooperation for the development. It’s a relationship that was announced a long time ago. And it was more visible because Portugal is a non-Muslim state that recognizes the Ismaili community to have a similar status as the Vatican.
Between spiritual duties and material realities
This is the corollary of the lengthy walk by Karim al Husseini, Aga Khan IV, the spiritual leader of the Ismailis. Born in Geneva, Switzerland, on 13 December 1936, he took the place of his grandfather, Aga Khan III in 1957 with only 20 years. Since then, his life has been hectic between the spiritual duties and the material realities that have allowed his community, who doesn’t have a physical state, to be recognized internationally. Karim has given it a global strength.
Aga Khan, in a mixture of Turkish and Persian, means commander-chief. And Karim, since early, has shown those qualities. Hence having been chosen as the spiritual leader of the community by Aga Khan III, since it is the Imam itself who chooses his successor. His father, Aly Khan, will be recognized by his romances, and the most explosive was the one that related him to the actress Rita Hayworth, whom he met in Riviera short after she got divorced from Orson Welles. Karim’s path was different. In 1957, he unfolded himself in networking in order to visit the different parts of the community in the world. But he returned to Harvard to finish his studies. His thought has a structure and he understands that the Ismaili community can be a bridge between different worlds that don’t know themselves and, as a result, don’t understand themselves. He even says that the western world does not understand the pluralism in the Muslim world. And that the problem in the Middle east has no primary cause in religion but in politics. Through dialogue, he goes on creating a net that connects Ismailis all over the world, also giving them a specific mission in the areas of cooperation, health and education. He adds into this the creation of an economic support that allows all these activities to take place. It’s a spider strategy, calm but consolidated.
In 1967, Karim established the Aga Khan Development Network, a non-for-profit private agency to fight against poverty and lack of health in the world. Karim knew the world where he was living: born in Switzerland, he lived in Kenya, was educated in the United States, is a British citizen. Being a leader without a country, he created it through a strong connection of a community spread around the planet. The Ismaili communities are spread by the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Canada, United States and Europe. All recognize one and only Imam.
(Slightly) Private life
In parallel with his life as a spiritual leader, the businessman and the agent of social activities has left his digital print in his private life. Hence being, as was his father, much followed by the press. He was a member of the Iranian Olympic team of sky, spent long times in Saint Moritz or Gstaad, surrounded by beautiful women. There he found a balance. A social character, he never stopped being a spiritual leader. An unstable balance, which made him become more consistent. His ideas became stronger.
In an interview, Karim Aga Khan revealed that: “In Sunni and Shia Islam, the Imam is responsible for the quality of life of those who look up to him as a guide to supervise the practice of the faith. There is no division like for example in the Christian interpretation, between material and spiritual. The responsibility of the Imam covers both areas”.
The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam originates from the Shia Islam, when prophet Muhammad designated his son-in-law Ali to continue his teachings in the Muslim community.
The leadership is hereditary and the Ismailis are the only Shia community to have a living Imam. The others revere a “hidden” Imam who will come back in the day of the final judgment. This is the reason why the Imamat is unique. The sunnis, on the contrary, don’t accept the continuity of the religious leadership from members of the prophet’s family.
Knowing how to lead and being present in the right moments has increased his image as a perfect diplomat: the first encounter between Ronald Reagen and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, took place at the Aga Khan’s in Geneva.
Karim, grandson of Muhammad
Much of what Karim is, can be found in his grandfather: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, the 48th Imam, was the president of the League of Nations, predecessor of the UN before the II World War. Born in Karachi, then British India, he was one of the founding countries of Pakistan.
But it is also important not to forget that Karim is nephew of the High Commissioner of the UN for the refugees, Sadruddin Aga Khan, deceased 2003. Sadruddin resided for a long time in Switzerland, where he founded the Bellerive Foundation dedicated to the protection of nature, which in 2006 was joined with the Aga Khan Foundation. Two pillars that illustrate the world where Karim grew up and developed. But he is also very connected with the community’s history.
The Ismailis found their origins in the VIII century, when they separated from the Shia main branch, after a misunderstanding about who would be the seventh Imam. The Ismailis chose to follow Imam Ismael, who they believed to be a descendent of Hussein, the prophet’s grandson. Established in Persia in 1818, the Xa of Persia granted the title of Aga Khan to the 46th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis, Aga Khan I, deceased in 1881.
One of the wealthiest princes in the world
Karim Aga Khan IV, 49th Imam, is the heir of this long history. He is one of the members of the richest royal families in the world, according to Forbes, with a fortune between 800 million and 3 billion dollars. The donations of the community mainly reinforce the initiatives in the philanthropic area, the development projects, education and charity projects.
In his private life, Karim has lands in France and Ireland, and has a well-known passion for horses. His business empire has interests in the area of hotels, telecommunications, energy, pharmaceuticals and aviation. His private life has also been much scrutinized. The Imam has divorced his first wife, Sarah Croker Poole, after 25 years of marriage, in 1995. In 1969 when they got married, Sarah was one of the most glamorous models of the London “swinging sixties”. The former model, with whom he had three children, would end up receiving 30 million dollars in the divorce.
In 1998 Karim would then marry with Gabriele Thyssenem Thyssen (daughter of Hans Heidrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, German industrialist in steel and art, whose works are nowadays in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, under the guardianship of the widow Carmen). This divorce would be much mediatized as it involved the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who would have obtained fiscal exemptions for Aga Khan.
Nevertheless, the private life of Karim Aga Khan IV never concealed his importance as a leader of a community that has known how to survive and grow in a conflicting world. He has now discovered a safe land, by the waters of the Tagus river and the Atlantic ocean.
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