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Offshore leak puts tax advice in spotlight again

Tax-Taxation-Blocks-700.jpgAnother significant leak of documents has thrown the role of tax advice into the spotlight again.

13.4m files, being dubbed the Paradise Papers in reports, were passed to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, with an investigative project with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The leak is the world’s second biggest, eclipsing files from Wikileaks in 2010 and Luexembourg in 2014, and reveals the use of offshore tax havens by corporations, wealthy individuals and political leaders.

Conservative party donor Lord Ashcroft used a Bermuda-based trust to shelter wealth overseas, which had assets of at least £341m at one stage, according to reports.

Ashcroft’s representatives questioned the decision of law firm Appleby – which is at the heart of many of the papers – to terminate its relationship with the peer in 2016, documents are said to show.

Other political names in the fray are Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, whose senior adviser and chief fundraiser Stephen Bronfman helped orchestrate the movement of millions of dollars offshore into tax havens.

Danby Bloch: How advisers can avoid tax evasion penalties

The Queen has also been the subject of questions as the documents, drawn from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, show that her private estate invested millions in a Cayman Islands fund.

INXS singer Michael Hutchence is among the leading music stars who had offshore trusts set up by their advisers.

In a statement, Appleby says: “Appleby has thoroughly and vigorously investigated the allegations and we are satisfied that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients.

“We are an offshore law firm that advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business. We do not tolerate illegal behaviour. It is true that we are not infallible. Where we find that mistakes have happened, we act quickly to put things right and we make the necessary notifications to the relevant authorities.

“Having researched the ICIJ’s allegations, we believe they are unfounded and based on a lack of understanding of the legitimate and lawful structures used in the offshore sector.”

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  1. Michael Hutchence died 20 years ago, so quite what relevance to this story his investments and tax affairs might have is decidedly questionable.

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