Labour's backers use tax havens

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SOME OF Labour's most prominent donors are taking advantage of tax loopholes in off-shore companies at a time when the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, claims he wants to get tough on tax avoidance.

Lord Puttnam, the film mogul, industrialist Lord Paul, and publishing tycoon Lord Hamlyn were all made peers after Tony Blair came to power. As well as appearing in Labour's official list of major donors, they all have shares in offshore trusts variously in Guernsey and the British Virgin islands. Another wealthy donor, Abe Jaffe, boss of Currie Motors, holds almost all his shares in South Africa, Holland, and the Netherland Antilles.

The Independent's disclosures come in the wake of the controversy surrounding Geoffrey Robinson's offshore trust. A team of Treasury officials is working on a crackdown on the offshore finance industry, but Mr Robinson, the Paymaster General, withdrew from the project after revelations that he was a beneficiary of a pounds 12.75m Guernsey-based offshore trust set up for his family by the millionaire Joska Bourgeois.

Now other Labour luminaries will fall under an embarrassing spotlight. Paul Hamlyn, the founder of Octopus Publishing, is estimated to be worth pounds 275m, and gave pounds 500,000 to Labour, which is said to make him the party's biggest single investor. He has most of his shares in his key company, Michelin House Investment Company, in an account in Guernsey.

David Puttnam, a member of a government standards task force, also holds 24 per cent of the shares in his main company, Enigma Productions Ltd, in Guernsey.

Steel magnate Swarj Paul, whose family has an estimated pounds 500m, gave Labour more than pounds 130,000 through his company Caparo. All the shares in the Caparo Group are held in the British Virgin Islands.

The family of Abe Jaffe is estimated to be worth pounds 60m. He is the chairman of Currie Motors, whose parent company Curfin Holdings BV is based in the Netherlands Antilles.

Lord Puttnam, producer of multi-Oscar winning Chariots of Fire and former chairman of Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, left Labour for the Social Democrats but rejoined the party in l988. He has never disclosed exactly how much he has donated to Labour but has insisted to friends that he had never sought to buy preferment.

Lord Puttnam is listed in a company report as owning 75 per cent of Enigma Productions Ltd. His wife Patricia owns 1 per cent, with another 24 per cent held offshore in Guernsey by Old Court Ltd. However, the report also shows that Lord Puttnam owns 50 per cent of Old Court Ltd.

PB Hamlyn and Associates owns 66,666 shares in Michelin House Investment Company Ltd, the other 33,333 are held by Sir Terence Conran and Associates. Out of Lord Hamlyn's shares, 56,667 are held offshore by Guernsey Nominees Ltd.

The beneficiaries of Lord Paul's offshore company are all listed in the United Kingdom, and thus are liable for UK taxes. However, if the beneficiaries moved abroad then that tax is not expected to be payable.

Yesterday Lord Paul, a noted philanthropist whose views on the economy and commerce are known to be influential in government circles, said: "The offshore company was set up in l978 at the advice of lawyers and accountants ... But if the Chancellor decides it is wrong and changes the law I would not be that bothered ... in fact ending it would probably save a lot on paperwork and expensive lawyers' and accountants' fees."

Last night, Lord Hamlyn's office said he was out of the country and unavailable for comment. Lord Puttnam, too, was unavailable. At Mr Jaffe's office a woman said: "Mr Jaffe is out of the country, and his son, the managing director, does not want to to talk to you".

Blair's town halls, page 8