Monday, December 3, 2012

Broke Guardian Selling the Rest of the Auto Trader Silver

Somehow Sky beat the Media Guardian to the story in their own backyard – GMG are selling their remaining 50% stake in Auto Trader for up to £600m. Things must be getting really bad…

Of course it was the sale of the first chunk of the car classifieds goldmine that employed the finest tax avoidance techniques known to the Cayman Islands. Guido will be watching this sale closely…

Monday, November 26, 2012

Guardian’s Offshore Secrets:
Guardian Media Group Cayman Islands Company Still Active

In 2011 Guido produced a video highlighting Guardian Media Group’s financial hypocrisies, provoking a rambling article from editor Alan Rusbridger and another self-justifying piece in the paper blaming the decision to place hundreds of millions in assets offshore on their investment partners Apax.

Rusbridger argued essentially that it is a tough world for his newspaper so they can’t be pure in their business practices. A transparently self-serving argument. It remains the case that despite the Guardian’s high-mindedness it has tax dodging in its DNA. The original trust structure was set up by CP Scott to avoid inheritance taxes. That was wound up in 2008 to exploit a loophole enabling them to pay zero capital gains tax on £307 million in profits. But they haven’t stopped there.

Guido checked with the Cayman’s company registrar yesterday to see if a certain controversial tax-exempt corporation was still operating. In 2008 The Guardian claimed GMG Hazel Acquisition 1 Limited, a GMG-owned company, would be transferred into their investment partner Apax’s offshore structures, normally when this happens there is a name change. The name is unchanged to this day, strongly suggesting the ownership is unchanged. In the spirit of their Offshore Secrets investigation into tax havens, sham companies and nominee directors, perhaps it is time the Guardian explained why

  • If GMG Hazel Acquisition 1 Limited holds no assets, why have its owners continued to pay registration fees since 2007 so it can remain an active company?
  • If it does hold assets what is the total present value of GMG and associated companies’ assets held via the Cayman Islands or other offshore tax havens?
  • Does GMG Hazel Acquisition 1 Limited have “sham” nominee directors, if so, who are they?

There may well be an innocent explanation, these are the sort of questions they ask of others…

Further reading on the Guardian‘s tax hypocrisy:

David Miliband’s £15,000-a-Day Month

The latest instalment in Guido’s How Much Does David Miliband Earn? series reveals that the jet-setting former Foreign Secretary trousered an average of £15,000-a-day for his outside work last month. Miliband made £25,000 for his two-day job at Sunderland football club, £12,000 for 24-hours’ work advising Oxford Analytica and £23,000 for just one day at VantagePoint Clean Tech. He also enjoyed a £6,000 all-expenses paid trip to Washington. £60,000 for four days work. And he didn’t even have to go to the jungle…

Thursday, November 22, 2012

IPSA Boss Says Piggy MPs Deserve Our Trust Again

A laughable interview on the Today programme this morning by Sir Ian Kennedy, the head of IPSA and the man in charge of a review of MPs’ pay. Kennedy says it is time to trust MPs again on expenses:

“Two and a half years ago Parliament was mired in controversy about expenses scandal and looks what’s happened in those two and a half years: an independent body has been created, we’ve addressed business costs, we’ve addressed expenses, we’ve got a good system in place which works. What we’ve got to do is say, look, 2009 is not back with us. MPs are not in a situation where they’re not to be trusted and that there’s no system in place. Quite the opposite, there’s a new system and it’s quite unfair to say that MPs are not to be trusted.”

He must have forgotten all about Stephen Dorrell, Denis MacShane, Margaret Moran, Linda Riordan, Meg Munn, Andy Burnham, Chris BryantHelen Grant, Bill Cash, John Whittingdale, Peter Luff, Jessica Lee, David Amess, Kevin Barron and Don Foster. And that’s just during the last month…

Living on Borrowed Time

Part time Tory MP Tim Yeo’s latest musings on the state of the economy read more like something out of the Ed Balls textbook of treasury tragedy. Despite yesterday’s worrying borrowing figures, the conflicted MP ludicrously says we should borrow more money:

“If borrowing is for long term infrastructure assets it should be considered, providing a direct economic benefit can be demonstrated. I do not approve of borrowing due to a failure to cut current spending quickly enough. But where the economic benefit is evident borrowing is acceptable.”

Maybe he’s hoping that economic benefit he mentions might apply to one of his own copious outside interests…

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rothschilds Donate £10,000 to Labour

The Rothschilds, offshore banking and a large political donation – all we need are a Russian oligarch and a yacht and it’s 2010 all over again. Yesterday’s Electoral Commission figures reveal that the Labour Party have accepted a £10,000 donation from Rothschild Private Banking, a wealth management service that specialises in discreet “wealth structuring” and “expert guidance on efficient tax and succession planning”. Are they predators or producers?

Its parent company is based, naturally, in Switzerland. Tax avoidance really is a terrible thing, isn’t it Ed?

Stephen Dorrell’s Secret Rent Deal

Former Tory Health Secretary turned troughing piggy Stephen Dorrell should be drafting his resignation this morning after the Telegraph revealed that he sold his old flat to friends, did not declare the controversial deal that netted him £70,000, and then rented it back off of them. All to break the spirit of the new expenses rules.

Dorrell openly admits that he contrived this tenancy to maximise his benefits under IPSA rules, he told the Telegraph

“…I bought it on an interest only mortgage, because that was the rule at the time, and that ended. So I arranged for a third party to buy it. We had an independent assessment of the rent and it is rented at arms length.”

If he was claiming welfare benefits instead of MPs’ benefits he could be prosecuted for fraudulently “contriving a tenancy”…

In an added twist, there is also a huge undeclared conflict of interest in the fact that the friends are involved in care homes – an area being investigated by the Select Committee Dorrell chairs. The only job he should be doing is Stewarding the Chilton Hundreds…

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rent Swapping Labour MP: I Had No Idea Who Riordan Was

One of the many rent-swappers revealed last month was Labour MP Linda Riordan. She claimed £1,473-a-month from the taxpayer to rent a London flat in spite of the fact that she rented her own London property to parliamentary colleague Iain McKenzie. At the time McKenzie claimed that he had no idea that his landlady was a Labour MP, absolving himself of all responsibility and ending the arrangement, apparently, as soon as he found out.

However, documents released by IPSA last night show that the payment for McKenzie’s rent was not to a holding company or estate agent like many of his colleagues, but instead straight to the landlord: Linda Riordan. So did McKenzie mislead us with his previous statement?

McKenzie has now admitted to Guido that he saw Riordan’s name on the lease document, but, and it’s a very big but, he didn’t realise his landlord was an MP because he had never heard of Linda Riordan before in his life:

“Payment was direct by IPSA, they advised they deal direct with Estate agent, the reason I used them. I signed the lease document, on it was landlord Linda – no indication of her employment. As I was only elected three months I did not connect the name, truth is I still do not know all MPs.”

Guido is sceptical, though in truth he’d never heard of her before all this either…

Thanks to @RossMcCaff for pointing out that it said ‘landlord’ on the FOI.

Helen’s Unfair Grant

Equalities Minister Helen Grant has opened up a new front on the rent swapping saga: claiming for a flat despite owning a property in another constituency close enough to London, that if they represented they would be unable to claim for a second home.

We have had dozens of MPs owning property in London and renting another but the dishonest geography of this scam looks even more blatant. Last night’s Dispatches reported that Grant lives in a £1.8m house near her Maidstone seat and claims the maximum, to the penny, amount for taxpayer-funded flat in London.

Despite the commute from Maidstone being little over an hour, as a non-London MP, she is entitled to a second-home allowance. But Grant also owns a house in Reigate, less than twenty miles from Parliament. A taxi back there would be far cheaper than kitting her out with a luxury Thames-view pad. As for Ms Grant, her staff were more than happy to twist the knife on last night’s show. It seems she’s upset almost everyone. More later…

UPDATE: Grant also employs her husband Simon with taxpayers’ money as a senior parliamentary assistant.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dispatches: Rent-Swappers Revealed Tonight

This evening’s Dispatches will blow the lid on five more troughing rent-swapper MPs. Throughout October Guido revealed names of several of the MPs who were billing the taxpayer for the rent for their London accommodation despite owning properties in the capital that they themselves were renting out. Tonight’s programme alleges:

  • John Denham has the nerve to charge the taxpayer for rent even though he has receives income from a London property he rents out. When Guido asked greedy expenses-guzzler Denham why he had decided to become a rent-swapper at the height of the scandal he sobbed that: “I was forced to vacate the property (and rent a flat) directly and solely as a consequence of changes in IPSA rules. For the avoidance of doubt, I would strongly prefer to be living in this property and not a rented flat”.
  • Tory DCMS select committee chairman and rent-swapper John Whittingdale has started claiming rent for a considerably more expensive property than the London flat the he owns, used to live in and now receives rental income for.
  • Mark Pritchard is billing the taxpayer for the rent for a London property despite the fact that he also owns a flat in the capital.
  • Labour’s Michael Meacher has pulled the same trick in Oldham.
  • While Pat McFadden has done the same in Wolverhampton.

Here is the list of MPs claiming for rent in full:

There are some very interesting names on that list. It would seem that Peter Luff is renting off a Frank Lampard. According to the chants, there is only one Frank Lampard, so it must be the Chelsea footballer. Keith Simpson rents off Tory peer Howard Flight. Stephen Williams rents off disgraced LibDem peer Jenny Tonge while Julian Huppert rents from Channel Four’s much loved old political editor Elinor Goodman. Jessica Morden rents off Madeleine Moon. They’re both Labour MPs.

Every single one of these MPs is relaying the same old sob story word for word to try to excuse their rent-swap troughing. 

They can blame the rules all they like, the fact is they are profiting thanks to the taxpayer…

UPDATE:


Seen Elsewhere

Why Are Radicals Like Carswell Leaving Tories? | BBC
Danczuk: Rotherham Abuse Imported From Pakistan | Telegraph
Ashya King Case Shows How Authorities Get it Wrong | ConHome
The Carswell Show | Jon Craig
Cops Seized Journalist’s Phone to Out Whistleblower | Press Gazette
Chuka’s £2,500 Tax Avoidance Donation | Times
Another BBC Stitch Up? | David Keighley
Divided, Pessimistic Tories Expect Defeat | Alex Wickham
Labour Suspends Rotherham Council Members | Sky
PM Used Terror Crisis to Deflect From Carswell | Rachel Sylvester
Scotland Surges for Freedom | Times


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George Osborne rejects the Ice Bucket Challenge from Ed Balls:

“I’d rather pay the money to charity and pour cold water on his policies.”



Owen Jones says:

We also need Zil lanes.


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