George Osborne ‘personally benefited’ from £6m property sale to tax-dodging company

Tony Gosling tony at
Thu Apr 7 11:58:14 BST 2016

Land Registry faces privatisation

Government agency that documents ownership of 
land and property across England and Wales to be 
sold off after 150 years as state institution
Osborne and 
Mason Thursday 24 March 2016 19.35 GMTLast 
modified on Thursday 24 March 201623.25 GMT#

The Land Registry is being put for up for sale 
less than two years after 
Liberal Democrats blocked previous plans for a £1bn-plus privatisation.
Union leaders criticised what they called the 
“cynical” timing. Mark Serwotka,general secretary 
of the Public and Commercial Services union, 
said: “Homebuyers and owners rely on the Land 
Registry to provide an impartial professional 
service and it must remain under public control, 
free from any profit motive and conflict of interest.
“It is utterly disgraceful that the government 
waited until the end of the day before MPs break 
for Easter to publish its consultation, but is a 
sure sign ministers know the strength and breadth 
of opposition they will face.”
The Land Registry employs more than 4,500 civil 
servants and plays an important role in the 
property market, holding 24m titles for the 
ownership of properties across England and Wales.
George Osborne is keen to press ahead with 
selling off £20bn-worth of public assets, 
including stakes in the bailed-out banks, by the 
end of this parliament, in what is expected to be 
the biggest wave of privatisations since Margaret 
Thatcher was in Downing Street..........

George Osborne ‘personally benefited’ from £6m 
property sale to tax-dodging company
Winterbottom - 6th April 2016
Chancellor George Osborne, who owns a 15% stake 
in his family’s business Osborne & Little Group 
Ltd, ‘personally benefited’ from the sale of £6m 
worth of property to a company based in the 
British Virgin Islands – a well-known tax haven.
following an investigation by Channel 4 News in 
2015, Osborne & Little Ltd teamed up with a 
company called Nightingale Mews Inc. to redevelop 
the site of its former headquarters.
Both companies jointly applied for planning 
permission, and once they were given the green 
light, Osborne & Little sold their site to the offshore firm for £6,088,000.
At this point in time in 2005, the soon-to-be 
Chancellor of the Exchequer was the beneficiary 
of a trust that owned at least a 15% stake in the 
family-run business, and so George Osborne would 
have ‘personally benefited’ from a chunk of this £6m windfall.

However, it is not known exactly how much Mr 
Osborne personally received from the sale.

David Quentin, a Barrister and Senior Advisor to 
the Tax Justice Network said that Osborne & 
Little were fully aware that they were dealing 
with a company based in an offshore tax-haven, stating:
It’s quite clear that we’re dealing with an 
offshore company. If you look at this agreement, 
you see that the buyer company is named and then 
it’s expressly described as incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.”
He added that by basing itself in the British 
Virgin Islands, Nightingale Mews Inc would have 
avoided any tax on profits it made.
Instead of paying UK tax on that profit, it would 
be able to realise that profit tax free
Land registry records shows that after the 
redevelopment, Nightingale Mews Inc. sold the 
property for around £20m, with an estimated 
profit of £8m. By being based in a tax haven, the 
company avoided paying £2m in UK corporation tax.
Immediately following the sale of the property, 
Nightingale Mews Inc was dissolved, leaving no 
trace of any individuals involved in the deal.
Read This:  The mainstream media has hijacked the 
English language for their own agenda. We need to take it back.
When Channel 4 News contacted George Osborne 
regarding the claims, his office refused to 
answer questions, stating that “This is a totally bogus and desperate story.”
With the Panama Papers scandal bringing the shady 
dealings of secretive offshore companies into the 
mainstream media, the resurfacing of this story 
will be a further embarrassment to a Chancellor 
who today 
an interview when asked about his involvement with offshore companies.
George Osborne has also previously advocated ways 
of avoiding paying inheritance tax on The Daily 
Politics show, and it seems he is well versed on 
ways of skirting around the laws he is now tasked with implementing.
Osborne & Little have previously come under fire 
for paying 
a single penny in corporation tax for seven 
years, despite paying out dividends worth 
£335,000 to shareholders in 2014. Payments that 
include a sum of £1,230 directly to George Osborne himself.
In 2012, George Osborne himself stated that tax 
avoidance is ‘morally repugnant’.

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Revealed: the tycoons and world leaders who built secret UK property empires

The Panama Papers show how billions of pounds of 
offshore cash flooded the British property market 

Bengtsson and 
Watt   Tuesday 5 April 2016 15.45 BST

The president of the 
Arab Emirates has secretly built one of the 
single biggest offshore property empires in Britain, the Panama Papers reveal.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan owns dozens of 
properties worth more than £1.2bn through 
offshore companies supplied by Mossack Fonseca.

His property portfolio runs from the BHS building 
on Oxford Street to the designer outlets of 
Bruton Street and Mayfair’s Berkeley Square 
estate, where his tenants include Hermès, Stella 
McCartney and Annabel’s nightclub.

World leaders, business people and celebrities 
are among those whose anonymous ownership of 
London property has been exposed by the massive 
leak of the Panama law firm’s data on offshore companies.

The prime minister of 
Iraq’s former interim prime minister and the 
president of the Nigerian senate are among those 
whose links to London property are detailed by the files.

More than £170bn of UK property is now held 
overseas. Much of that is in London, where 
unprecedented house price inflation has 
transformed homes into highly profitable 
investments for asset speculators. Nearly one in 
10 of the 31,000 tax haven companies that own 
British property are linked to Mossack Fonseca.

Owning UK property through offshore companies is 
perfectly legal. However in some parts of the 
country, particularly in London, the use of 
offshore companies to purchase properties as 
investment assets rather than homes has helped fuel house price inflation.

Around 2,800 Mossack Fonseca companies appear on 
a Land Registry list of overseas property owners 
dating from 2014. The companies are connected to 
more than 6,000 title deeds worth at least £7bn, 
although the true value is likely to be greater 
since many property deeds do not specify the 
price paid for the property. There is no 
suggestion of any wrongdoing or unethical 
behaviour on the part of any of the offshore 
property owners identified by the files.

It was previously known that the ruling family of 
the UAE, based in Abu Dhabi, had made inroads into the UK property market.

The president’s father, Zayed bin Sultan Al 
the purchase of the Berkeley Square estate of 
commercial and residential property in the heart 
of Mayfair in 2005, and two years ago it was 
reported that the Nahyan family had become the 
largest Mayfair landowners after the Duke of Westminster.

But the leaked files reveal their property 
interests extend far beyond this, with a string 
of commercial units on Sloane Street and a £160m 
stretch of property along Kensington’s De Vere 
Gardens, along with other holdings in Marylebone 
Road, Richmond and Oxford Street.

A 2014 email from Nahyan’s lawyers names him as 
the beneficial owner of a dozen offshore 
companies that also appear in the Land Registry’s 
list of overseas companies that own British 
property. Ninety title deeds, some of which 
include dozens of properties, are linked to the Nahyan companies.

In some cases Nahyan’s property owning companies 
were themselves owned by other offshore 
companies, which held their assets in trust for 
the president. His identity was anonymised in all 
but a few documents. “We do not, as you know, 
refer to His Highness by name in our work for the 
companies and do so by exception here, in order 
to assist you,” Nahyan’s lawyer wrote in one letter.

The president did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Also named in the files is Mariam Safdar, the 
married name of the daughter of the Pakistani 
prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. A 2012 email 
identifies Safdar, usually known as Mariam Nawaz 
Sharif, as having been the beneficial owner of 
two offshore companies that each own flats in Avenfield House on Park Lane.

The Sharif family has previously 
any impropriety in relation to the property, 
saying they were bought because the Sharif 
children were studying in London. On Monday the 
Sharif family issued a statement declaring that 
Safdar “is not a beneficiary or owner of any of 
these companies”. Separately Sharif’s son, 
that the family had done nothing wrong. “It is 
according to British law and laws of other 
countries that it is a legal way to avoid 
unnecessary tax via offshore companies,” he said.

Ayad Allawi, who spent years in exile before 
becoming Iraq’s prime minister in the wake of his 
country’s war, is identified as a director of two 
British Virgin Islands companies that own property.

Foxwood Estates Limited bought a £2.75m 
Kensington town house in 2008, while one year 
later Moonlight Estates Limited bought a £750,000 
commercial building on Edgware Road. A 
spokesperson for Allawi told the International 
Consortium of Investigative Journalists that the 
companies had been set up based on security and legal advice.

At least 700 properties were owned by companies 
named in the Panama Papers that were themselves 
owned through bearer shares – anonymous documents 
that grant ownership to the person physically 
holding the certificate. Bearer shares are now in 
effect banned in many countries, including the 
UK, due to their attractiveness to criminals.

An offshore company connected to 
Hunt, reported in 2011 by the Sunday Times to be 
a gangster, is also named in the files. EMM 
Limited used to own an industrial property in 
east London at which Hunt ran an iron and steel business.

Mossack Fonseca appears to still act for Hunt’s 
company, despite a high-profile libel case in 
which the high court threw out Hunt’s defamation 
suit against the Sunday Times. The files also 
contain a 2008 letter from Hunt in which he 
admitted there was “missing documentation” 
relating to the affairs of the company, including accounting records.

Hunt’s lawyer said that EMM was an 
“off-the-shelf” company bought in 1997 to own the 
property as a result of advice from a Jersey 
accountant that he subsequently discovered to be 
wrong. “In 2006 
 Mr Hunt entered into an 
agreement with HMRC under which he provided full 
disclosure of his affairs, including in relation 
to EMM Limited, and settled all his tax liabilities,” he added.

Bukola Saraki, the president of the Nigerian 
senate who is currently facing allegations that 
he failed to declare his assets, owns a property 
in Belgravia in his own name. The Panama Papers 
reveal the £5.7m property next door to be owned 
by companies incorporated in the Seychelles and 
BVI, whose respective shareholders are Saraki’s 
wife and former special assistant. Saraki told 
the Guardian he had declared all his assets 
correctly and in accordance with Nigerian legislation.

In another instance, a £1.65m townhouse in 
Kensington and Chelsea is shown as belonging to a 
BVI company whose sole shareholder is Folorunsho 
Coker, the former head of the number plate 
production authority of the state of Lagos and 
currently business adviser to the governor of 
Lagos. Coker’s lawyer said he had multiple 
sources of income and had always declared his 
interest in Satori Holdings to the Nigerian authorities.

Offshore companies and trusts can also enable 
investors to keep assets hidden while potentially 
reducing capital gains and inheritance tax or 
stamp duty in a manner not available to ordinary homeowners.

Transparency campaigners have warned the secrecy 
of such arrangements can enable large sums of 
black money to be laundered through the property 
market. A senior National Crime Agency director 
warned last year that the capital’s housing 
market had been “skewed by laundered money”.

The British government recently launched a 
consultation into whether to force offshore 
property owners to disclose their identities 
Cameron expressed concern that UK properties “are 
being bought by people overseas through anonymous 
shell companies, some with plundered or laundered cash”.

Panama Papers reporting team: Juliette Garside, 
Luke Harding, Holly Watt, David Pegg, Helena 
Bengtsson, Simon Bowers, Owen Gibson and Nick Hopkins
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