As the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) went live with a public database of over 200,000 names involved in the Panama Papers on Monday, The Canary can exclusively reveal more links to the Conservative Party.
The leak, reportedly the biggest in history, contains 2.6TB of information and 11.5 million documents; involves 214,488 companies and 14,153 clients – all of which span more than 35 years. It discloses confidential details of how some of the world’s elite actively avoid tax, via offshore “havens” such as the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
David Cameron was linked to the papers as we reported after the documents were first revealed on 3 April:
David Cameron’s late father, Ian Cameron, was a stockbroker, multi-millionaire, and Mossack Fonseca client. The firm allegedly helped him to protect his investment fund, Blairmore Holdings, Inc., from taxation in the UK. (Blairmore House, by the way, is the Cameron family’s ancestral country estate.)
Ian Cameron’s investment fund was registered in Panama by Mossack Fonseca, in spite of the fact that most of its main investors were British. To avoid becoming resident in the UK, the fund used “untraceable certificates of ownership”.
The Prime Minister’s father controlled this fund from its creation in 1982 until he died in 2010.
The Prime Minister, after much flip-flopping, admitted to benefitting from the fund but denied any wrongdoing, saying:
I paid income tax on the dividends, but there was a profit on it but it was less than the capital gains tax allowance, so I didn’t pay capital gains tax, but it was subject to all the UK taxes in all the normal ways
However, this latest round of leaks, which is available as a searchable database, reveals more Tories and their supporters linked to the tax haven scandal.
Sir Keith Mills and his wife Maureen were shareholders in a company called Onedin Holdings Limited until it closed in 2013. Onedin was registered on the island of Barbados, and the Mills’ used an address in Mumbai, India as their registered base. Keith Mills was the CEO of London 2012, the Olympic Organising Committee and also founded Airmiles and Nectar. He donated £20,000 to the Conservatives via a company called Team Origin.
Sir Rocco Forte, a well-known hotelier, is another Tory Party funder (having donated £10,000) linked to the Panama Papers. He was a shareholder in P.F.E. Trading Co. Limited which operated under the jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands until 2007. Its finances were managed via Centurion Management Services in Jersey – a company which was forced to close in 2009 for breaking “numerous legislative provisions and regulatory codes of practice”.
Donating £5,500 was Sir Nigel Rudd – possibly the most interesting out of the latest names to emerge from the Panama Papers leaks. Touted by some as “The Man Who Sold Britain”, he has a reputation for selling UK companies to foreign investors. Most notably he was the man behind the acquisition of Boots by Stefano Pessina in 2007 – a move which ended up costing the taxpayer over £1bn in avoided revenue. Rudd is currently chairman of Heathrow Airport but is stepping down in September this year. Rudd was also a signatory on the now-infamous letter in The Telegraph last year of 100 business leaders who supported the Conservatives’ economic policy.
The arrangement Nigel Rudd was implicated in via the Panama Papers involved “Opus Capital Ventures Two Limited” – which appears to be an investment portfolio that was realised in 2010. The scheme had numerous shareholders, one of which was more striking than the others. The family name “Folkes” may be unfamiliar, but they are one of the largest property tycoons in the UK. They also donated £32,000 to the Tory Party – £10,000 specifically to James Morris, MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis in 2013.
An entity named Tulow Oil is also extremely interesting. The beneficiary of a company called Eagle Drill based in the British Virgin Islands via an intermediary in Guernsey, Tulow’s registered address is actually in the UK under its real name Tullow Oil. Its CEO Aidan Heavey is a prolific Tory donor, giving £64,000 to the party since 2010.
It’s no wonder then, that when faced with a huge tax bill in Uganda it didn’t want to pay, it simply got the then Foreign Secretary William Hague to intervene on its behalf. Saving it £175m, no less. This back-scratching works both ways, though – as Tullow Oil pays ICE Futures Europe to act as a middleman for selling its shares. Would it surprise you to know that Mr. Hague is a director of ICE? Probably not.
And just to round-off this “Who’s-Who” of Tories linked to tax havens, no story about offshore financial affairs would be complete without the owners of The Telegraph, the Barclay Brothers. Sir David and Sir Frederick were shareholders in Kentala Limited. Operating out of the British Virgin Islands, its financial intermediary was in Guernsey, and the siblings registered themselves out of an address in Harbin, China.
After their paper screamed the headline “Exclusive: David Cameron’s hypocrisy on Panama Papers”, you’d be forgiven for wondering if the Barclay Brothers know the meaning of the word “hypocrite”.
It should be noted that The Canary did the same search of the Panama Papers regarding Labour Party peers. We didn’t find any. Furthermore, we also searched the top 25 non-trade union donors to the party from last year, and could not find any evidence linking any of the names listed.
Furthermore, as the ICIJ alludes to, no-one is claiming that any of the names mentioned in the leaks have in any way broken the law. Unless the law relates to morals and ethics, that is.
While many may be searching the Panama Papers database in the hope of finding the names David Cameron, George Osborne or Lynton Crosby – it sadly doesn’t work quite like that. It is also important that the debate surrounding this doesn’t become weighed down by the actions of individuals – it is the system, ultimately, that needs drastically changing.
But what the leaks have begun to, and will continue to, reveal is just how deep the rot of offshore tax arrangements runs. When you have some of the most high-profile business people in the country actively using mechanisms which allow them to reduce their domestic tax bill – and when these individuals are then directly linked to the party of government via donations and “favours”, questions need to be asked.
It is estimated by the Tax Justice Network that $21 trillion is lost through offshore tax arrangements globally. But with the UK deemed the epicentre for this worldwide industry, it is a problem we need to tackle head-on.
David Cameron is chairing an anti-corruption summit in London on Thursday – the first of its kind. He said of the issues that the meeting will debate:
The battle against corruption will not be won overnight. It will take time, courage and determination to deliver the reforms that are necessary. But we cannot hope to solve the major global challenges we face without tackling the exploitation, fraud and dishonesty at their heart. For too long there has been a taboo about tackling this issue head-on. The summit will change that. Together we will push the fight against corruption to the top of the international agenda where it belongs.
Heartening words from our Prime Minister. He may wish to begin by looking a bit closer to home.
Watch this video from the ICIJ.
Search the database yourself.
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