Dame Shirley moves pounds 70m out of Britain

BARONESS PORTER has moved a personal fortune estimated at pounds 70m from Britain into offshore accounts to avoid paying a pounds 26.5m court surcharge for "wilful misconduct" in the "homes for votes" scandal at Westminster City Council.

Shirley Porter, the former council leader, has sold all her personal shares in the family business, Tesco, worth an estimated pounds 5.5m along with homes in Bayswater and Oxfordshire, and resigned from six British directorships.

The assets have been moved into offshore accounts in Jersey, Guernsey, Panama and the Virgin Islands, with investments in Switzerland, Israel and the United States.

Lady Porter, who now lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, is being pursued by Westminster council for the money to pay the surcharge imposed after her gerrymandering policy of selling council homes to influence voting patterns was declared unlawful.

The council has spent pounds 3.5m in legal fees to recover the money but its chief executive, Bill Roots, confirmed that a deal may be reached with Lady Porter to save taxpayers from further expenditure.

Her few remaining shares in Tesco, the source of her inherited fortune, are no longer held in her sole name and she has resigned virtually all of her directorships of UK companies in the last four years, since being found guilty of illegal action in seeking to obtain Tory votes in return for homes in Westminster council wards. She sold off two plots of forest land in Scotland in June for pounds 335,000, a month after it was discovered by the council that she owned 1,700 acres of forestry.

The trail of Lady Porter's assets will be exposed in a BBC2 First Sight documentary tomorrow called "Looking for Shirley". It shows a search at Companies House discovering that in March this year she sold her 20 per cent stake in one company, Chelverton Investments.

She is contesting the ruling by the district auditor and the High Court in the Court of Appeal next year. And she could still appeal to the House of Lords and the European Court, if that case goes against her.

Mr Roots told the programme that a deal was "something that may be appropriate in the fullness of time". He added: "The council has spent pounds 3.5m in auditors' and legal fees to get to the point we're at now and we're still in the courts."

If Lady Porter loses her appeal, there could be a long battle with the authorities in Israel and America - where the Porter family own other properties - before any assets could be seized.

Lady Porter issued a statement to the programme protesting her innocence of any financial wrongdoing. "The Westminster case is political from start to finish. This case is not about anything criminal or about any financial wrongdoing or gain. I've done nothing wrong and I intend to fight this case every step of the way."

The BBC programme producers said: "The legacy of her `wilful misconduct' lives on for local residents in Westminster where people who bought homes under her `designated sales' scheme, as the homes for votes scheme was officially called, find they are worthless."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity is available to ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leading specialist i...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Support Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This role's responsibility also include operat...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy