Tax avoidance: Celebrities named in leaked documents revealing offshore financial dealings


Jonathan Owen
Friday 11 July 2014 19:06 BST
Hollywood star Mel Gibson; Dire Straights guitarist Mark Knopfler; former England football captain Bryan Robson
Hollywood star Mel Gibson; Dire Straights guitarist Mark Knopfler; former England football captain Bryan Robson (Getty Images)

Some of the world’s best known celebrities, including actor Mel Gibson and Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, are among the names featuring in a series of leaked documents revealing their offshore financial dealings, it emerged today.

Others who feature include celebrity tailor Oswald Boateng, former Formula One team boss Eddie Jordan, former England footballer Bryan Robson, and retired high court judge Sir Edward Evans-Lombe.

This comes after the news that Peter de Putron, who also features in the documents, has donated £816,000 to the Conservative party since his sister-in-law Andrea Leadsom, financial services minister, became an MP at the last election. The offshore client lists – dubbed the ‘Jersey files’ –from wealth management company Kleinwort Benson were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Both Prime Minister David Cameron and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, have stated their opposition to tax avoidance schemes and people seeking to evade tax in offshore tax havens.

And multi-millionaire footballer David Beckham, actor Sir Michael Caine, and singers George Michael and Gary Barlow are among tens of thousands of wealthy individuals being targeted in a crackdown on tax avoidance schemes. Under new laws being introduced in the coming weeks, they face tax demands which they must pay upfront even if they are fighting a legal battle with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The stars are among some of the 33,000 people who have invested in controversial schemes which enable them to reduce the tax they pay. Others include Centrica boss Sam Laidlaw, and former London Stock Exchange chief executive Clara Furse.

Under the new finance bill, which will become law in the next few weeks, HMRC will be given new powers to make people pay disputed tax demands upfront. Individuals will have 90 days to pay up after receiving the tax demands and will only get their money back if the dispute is subsequently settled in their favour. The new laws are a “game-changer” against tax avoidance, according to an HMRC spokesperson.

Tax avoidance schemes typically involve investors putting money into something which makes a loss and can then be offset against other earnings, thereby reducing their tax bill.

Although it is now able to demand payment tax bills still in dispute, HMRC is also seeking extra powers to take money directly from people’s bank accounts in cases of what HMRC chief executive, Lin Homer, describes as “recalcitrant debtors.”

  • An earlier version of this article suggested that Placido Domingo featured in the leaked document revealing offshore financial dealings. In fact, we now understand this is not the case. The account in question was in the name of his son, Placido Domingo Jr., and related to a trust for the son that was terminated many years ago. Placido Domingo Snr was not the settlor of that trust. We are sorry for the error and are happy to clarify matters.

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