BBC to broadcast Ashcroft tax allegations
Monday 27 September 2010
The BBC tonight cancelled a Panorama documentary on the business and tax affairs of Lord Ashcroft, just hours before it was scheduled for broadcast last night.
Click here to read more
Lord Ashcroft, the outgoing deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, continued to avoid millions of pounds in UK tax, despite his pledge to become a full British taxpayer, according to a wide-ranging investigation into his financial and business affairs to be aired by the BBC tonight.
A Panorama programme on the billionaire Tory donor was originally scheduled to air before the General Election, when Lord Ashcroft was in charge of the party’s campaign in marginal constituencies, but the corporation delayed broadcast amidst wrangling with Lord Ashcroft's lawyers, and extended the programme's scope.
The investigation spans three countries where the peer has controversial interests, including the Caribbean tax havens of Belize and the Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as the UK. His lawyers told the BBC before broadcast: "Our client has denied any impropriety or wrongdoing in respect of any of the matters that you have raised."
Lord Ashcroft’s opaque tax affairs have proved a thorn in the side of David Cameron’s Conservative party, and the Panorama broadcast will ensure that the issue does not fade quietly as the peer formally steps down from the deputy chairmanship at a party meeting today.
The programme claims that Lord Ashcroft transferred ownership of one of his main companies on the eve of a new law that forces members of the House of Lords to pay tax on all their worldwide income. On 5 April, the peer moved his 25 million shares in Impellam Group into a trust for the benefit of his children. On 6 April, new legislation came into force that would have cost him an estimated £3.4m in inheritance tax.
“The billionaire businessman hasn’t broken any rules by using the family trust, but his actions appear to conflict with the coalition government’s stance on tax avoidance,” the BBC said in a press release for the programme, which airs on BBC1 at 8.30pm today.
The Independent revealed in March that plans to broadcast the investigation before the election had provoked furious protests from Conservative headquarters. Senior Tories fired off letters of protest to the director-general of the BBC, Mark Thompson, and the chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons. In the end, the decision to delay broadcast was taken because Lord Ashcroft’s lawyers disputed key parts of the programme and to give the team of journalists more time to unravel his network of offshore companies.
The peer is taking legal action against The Independent over two reports on his business interests in the Turks and Caicos Islands last November.
Panorama says that British detectives working on a corruption inquiry in the TCI are looking at loans provided by Lord Ashcroft’s bank to two local politicians. The investigation started after a Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Judge Sir Robin Auld found a high probability of systemic corruption in the islands and requested a criminal investigation of five government ministers. The British government suspended the TCI constitution last year and the islands are being run from the UK Foreign Office, which is now led by Lord Ashcroft’s political ally William Hague, who nominated him for a peerage when he was the Conservative leader in 1999.
The peerage was eventually granted in 2000 after Mr Ashcroft gave Mr Hague a written promise that he would become a UK resident. For the next nine years, he refused to answer questions about whether he was a UK taxpayer, until his hand was forced two months before the General Election this year, when he admitted he was not fully resident in the UK for tax purposes and so paid no tax on his huge overseas assets.
Lawyers for Lord Ashcroft told The Independent that he denied all wrongdoing. They said they would respond to the BBC later today in respect of the allegation about UK tax, adding "The [BBC] Press Release is fundamentally flawed, and this will be made clear to the BBC".
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 3 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 4 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 5 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
Florida man sentenced to two-and-a-half years for having sex on the beach in front of a child
Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
Tube strike July 2015: Is it still on? Everything you need to know about the industrial action
Eiji Tsuburaya: Godzilla co-creator honoured in today's interactive Google Doodle
Florida teacher sentenced to 22 years in prison for sexually abusing three pupils
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...
£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...