Tony Blair ‘should get a paper round’ says Angela Epstein
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The Pandora Papers are made up of some 12 million leaked documents revealing the hidden wealth, tax avoidance and money laundering of some of the wealthiest people on earth. Hundreds of journalists around the world have been trawling through the documents for months, with the Guardian and the BBC leading the UK investigation. In one of the most high-profile revelations, it has been claimed that Tony Blair and his wife dodged hundreds of thousands in stamp duty.
What did Tony Blair do?
There is no suggestion of hidden wealth or money laundering by the Blairs in the Pandora Papers.
However, they do reveal why the couple didn’t have to pay £312,000 in stamp duty when buying a £6.5m building in Marlybone, London.
The former Labour prime minister and his barrister wife acquired the building in 2017 by buying the offshore company that owned it.
The Pandora Papers reveal the Blairs acquired a British Virgin Islands (BVI) company controlled by the family of Bahrain’s current minister for industry, commerce and tourism – though both sides have said they didn’t initially know who they were dealing with.
By acquiring the holding company, and not the property itself, the couple weren’t required to pay stamp duty.
There is nothing illegal about this transaction, and there’s no evidence the Blairs were actively seeing to dodge tax.
However, the deal highlights a loophole available to wealthy property owners.
Mr Blair has long been critical of tax loopholes, so the revelation is particularly embarrassing.
The townhouse in Marylebone, central London, is now home to Mrs Blair’s legal consultancy, which advises governments around the world, as well as her foundation for women.
Mrs Blair said the sellers had insisted they buy the house through the offshore company.
She said they had brought the property back under UK rules and will be liable to pay capital gains tax if they sell it in future.
What else have the Pandora Papers alleged?
The most significant and embarrassing allegation for the UK is how easily prominent and wealthy people have been legally setting up offshore companies to secretly buy property in the UK. This highlights the UK government’s failure to introduce a register of offshore property owners despite repeated promises to do so, amid concerns some property buyers could be hiding money-laundering activities.
A prominent Tory donor – Mohamed Amersi, who contributed to Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign – was involved in one of Europes biggest corruption scandals, working on deals for a Swedish telecoms company that was later fined $965m (£700m) in a US prosecution.
The King of Jordan, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, went on a spending spree to build a property empire in the UK and US worth more than £70m using secretly-owned companies.
The Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, and his family, have hidden involvement in property deals in the UK worth more than £400m.
The Czech prime minister failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase two French villas for £12m.
The family of Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta’s secretly owned a network of offshore companies for decades.
Members of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers and their families, secretly own companies and trusts holding millions of dollars.
The law firm founded by President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus appears to have provided fake owners to disguise the real owner of a series of offshore companies – a former Russian politician who had been accused of embezzlement. However, the law firm denies this.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky transferred his stake in a secret offshore company just before he won the 2019 election.
Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso, a former banker, replaced a Panamanian foundation that made monthly payments to his close family members with a trust based in South Dakota in the US.
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