George Osborne personally benefited from £6m property sale to tax-dodging company
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
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
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 familys 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:
Its quite clear that were dealing with an
offshore company. If you look at this agreement,
you see that the buyer company is named and then
its 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
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
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
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 Mayfairs Berkeley Square
estate, where his tenants include Hermès, Stella
McCartney and Annabels 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 firms data on offshore companies.
The prime minister of
Iraqs 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 presidents 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 Kensingtons De Vere
Gardens, along with other holdings in Marylebone
Road, Richmond and Oxford Street.
A 2014 email from Nahyans lawyers names him as
the beneficial owner of a dozen offshore
companies that also appear in the Land Registrys
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 Nahyans 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, Nahyans 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 Sharifs 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 Iraqs prime minister in the wake of his
countrys 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 Hunts
company, despite a high-profile libel case in
which the high court threw out Hunts 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.
Hunts 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 Sarakis
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. Cokers 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 capitals 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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