Paradise Papers: Jeremy Corbyn suggests Queen should apologise after investing millions offshore

It comes after a major leak of 13.4 million documents – dubbed the Paradise Papers – which reveal the financial affairs of the global elite

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 06 November 2017 13:46
Queen's offshore tax investments exposed in leaked Paradise Papers

Jeremy Corbyn has implied that the Queen should apologise if her private estate invested £10m of her fortune in offshore funds to avoid paying tax in Britain.

Asked whether the monarch should say sorry over her investments, the Labour leader said anyone putting money offshore to avoid tax should do so and also “recognise what it does to our society”.

It comes after a major leak of 13.4 million documents – dubbed the Paradise Papers – which reveal the financial affairs of the global elite.

The Duchy of Lancaster, the private estate of the Queen, was found to have millions of pounds invested in offshore arrangements in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda between 2004 and 2005. There is no suggestion that those involved acted illegally.

The papers also traced a small portion of the Queen’s investments – £3,208 – to the rent-to-buy firm BrightHouse – a company that has previously been accused of exploiting poor customers with high interest rates.

Speaking at event hosted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Labour leader was asked if the Queen should apologise for the investments revealed in the papers. He replied: “Well anyone that is putting money into tax havens in order to avoid taxation in Britain, and obviously investigations have to take place, should do two things – not just apologise for it but also recognise what it does to our society.

“Because if the very wealthy person wants to avoid taxation in Britain and therefore put money into a tax haven somewhere, who loses? Schools, hospitals, housing, all those public services lose and the rest of the population have to pay to cover up the deficit created by that.

“And so I think with the Paradise Papers, which I have been reading through like all of us this morning, are quite shocking.”

A spokesman for the estate earlier said: “We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds. All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate.”

But a spokesperson for the Labour leader later said Mr Corbyn was not calling for the Queen to apologise “but said anyone who puts money into a tax haven to avoid paying tax should, and that they should recognise the damage done by avoidance to our society”.

They added: “Labour is calling for a public inquiry into tax avoidance.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, added that the Paradise Papers were evidence of the need for Britain to impose a “withholding tax” to ensure HMRC takes its share of company profits before firms move them to tax havens.

“If there’s abuse of our tax system by companies and trusts in particular that are using tax havens, I’d like to introduce a withholding tax so that we end that once and for all,” he said.

He also called for the Government to push tax havens to bring forward more information about the people investing money in companies on their shores.

Asked how he would force them to cooperate, he said: “They want a relationship with us. They have had a relationship that’s been beneficial for them over centuries.

“I believe we would be able to exert that pressure to enable them to come forward.

“Now that this is out in the open, I think that people would be outraged at what’s been going on.”

Also among those said to be named in the papers are former Tory chairman Lord Ashcroft and US president Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, who is reportedly linked to a Russian firm.

Earlier, Theresa May had refused to commit to a formal probe or to introducing a public register of who owns offshore companies and trusts in British tax havens, saying only that people should “pay the tax that is due”.

Asked whether she would insist on an inquiry and public registers, the Prime Minister told the CBI: “We have seen more revenues coming to HMRC over the last few years – since 2010, £160bn extra that they have been able to raise.

“But we do work, there’s already work that’s been done to ensure that we see greater transparency in our dependencies and British overseas territories and we continue to work with them.

“HMRC is already able to see more information about the ownership of shell companies, for example, so that they can ensure that people are paying their tax.

“We want people to pay the tax that is due.”

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