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
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
Jonatahn Sexton scores a penalty
rugby
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
weird news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?