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Forte family trust backed Thatcher

A charitable trust set up by the Forte family donated pounds 30,000 to Margaret Thatcher's right-wing think tank in 1994, according to documents seen by the Independent.

The donation was the largest of 50 listed by the Forte Charitable Trust, one of four trusts linked to the Forte family, founders of the luxury and hotels group, writes Mathew Horsman. All told, the trust gave pounds 174,000 to charities in 1994, the last year for which information is available.

Unlike the three other charitable foundations linked to the Forte family, which receive services from Forte plc, the public company, the Forte Charitable Trust is nominally independent.

Its directors are Sir Rocco Forte, the company chairman, his sister Olga Polizzi and George Proctor, a senior executive director. The pounds 30,000 payment to the Thatcher Foundation is the only overtly political contribution listed in the documents.

The Thatcher Foundation has received contributions from several prominent right-wing business people, including Walter Annenberg, the billionaire philanthropist and former US ambassador in London. Other likely supporters include Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong-based property developer.

A pounds 250,000 donation came in 1991 from Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, following Mrs Thatcher's far Eastern tour. Additional funding is believed to come from the former prime minister's speaking engagements in the US and elsewhere.

Her foundation was established in 1990, and is dedicated to promoting her views on privatisation, small government and lower taxes, particularly to audiences in Eastern Europe.

The Foundation offers advice to governments on investment, technology transfer and training. Hopes of raising as much as pounds 10m have not been met, but contributions are believed to be sufficient to finance what is still a modest operation.