Thursday 27 October 2016

Panama Papers: Simon Cowell, Heather Mills and Andy Cole among celebrities named in leak

Tom Morgan

Published 06/04/2016 | 23:18

The Duchess of York’s chaotic offshore finances were revealed in the latest Panama Papers leak which detailed a new host of well-known faces.

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Sarah Ferguson, 56, expressed confusion in 2001 over who was running her interests in the British Virgin Islands, according to letters between her solicitor and Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the scandal.

Since her divorce from Prince Andrew, the Duchess has made up to £2m a year from a variety of roles, including as an ambassador for Weight Watchers, but lost more than £3.2m in the collapse of Hartmoor, her US lifestyle and wellness company.

Essar Company Inc was managed through a trust services company in Geneva and, in September 2001, the Duchess’s solicitors, Clintons, wrote to establish how the company had been structured.

Clintons said Essar held “certain of her interests”, adding: “We have been instructed by her relatively recently and are trying to ascertain who the directors of the company are and who the beneficial owners of the company are.”

A spokesman for the Duchess, who has recently announced plans to move to Verbier and applied to become a resident of Switzerland, reportedly said she always disclosed all sources of income in her tax returns.

There is no suggestion of any illegality by those involved.

Other celebrities and well-known figures to feature in the leak to the Guardian newspaper include:

Simon Cowell, 56, music tycoon

Mr Cowell is said to have two companies on the British Virgin Islands.

Cowell was planning to purchase two plots of land in Barbados, where he holidays most years.

He is the sole shareholder of two British Virgin Islands (BVI) companies called Southstreet Limited, set up in February 2007, and Eaststreet Limited, set up in October 2007.

His spokesman said: “The companies were set up, not by my client, but by accountants acting for him as a common means for an overseas investor to purchase property in Barbados. Neither of Cowell's companies was ever used and both are dormant.

"My client, however, preferred to purchase them transparently in his own name. Therefore, the companies were never used for anything at all. I can also confirm on behalf of my client that he has not used any offshore companies for any purpose whatsoever.”

Cowell says he pays tax all over the world, adding: “Whenever I got knocked for what I do, I always say, well I do pay my taxes, and it helps, and I’m quite proud of that, here and all over the world.”

There is no suggestion of any illegality by Cowell.

Paul Burrell, 57, former Royal butler

Burrell, who looked after Diana, the Princess of Wales, is said to be a shareholder of a company called Black Dragon Group Ltd set up on the British Virgin Islands in 2005.

Along with his wife Maria, the man Diana called “her rock” has held shares in the company since 2008. Before that, they were owned through a Jersey-based trust company.

Black Dragon was managed by Whitmill Trust, but after the fees became “too high”, Mossack Fonseca was suggested as possible registered agent for the company in 2008.

It is not clear whether the company was ultimately transferred. In 2013, it emerged that Burrell was an investor in a tax relief scheme that was shut down by the government over tax fraud concerns.

Burrell turned down approaches for comment.

Heather Mills, 48, entrepreneur and former wife of Sir Paul McCartney

Mills, who was awarded £24.3m in her divorce from the former Beatle, was a shareholder of Water 4 Investment Ltd, which was originally set up to create health foods.

However, Mills said the investment ended in long legal battle, losing her a seven-figure sum.

A spokesman said Ms Mills invested £1m in a company which intended to utilise algae [rather than fish] to harvest Omega 3 oils, "thus preserving the marine ecosystem".

“I can say hand on heart I am a straight taxpayer and you will never find anything on me if you investigate thoroughly,” she said in an emailed statement to the Guardian.

Sir Mark Thatcher, 62, businessman son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Sir Mark is listed as the beneficiary of a trust that is the ultimate owner of a house in Barbados.

A complex sequence of companies shield his ownership of the property, where his family spend time every year.

The trust, which is managed by a Guernsey-based offshore specialist called Harbour Trust, owns a BVI company called Calva Holdings Limited.

Calva, in turn, owns another BVI company, which owns the Barbados property. The trust is furnished with nominee shareholders.

In a message to Mossack Fonseca’s compliance department, the managers said: “This trust structure has been part of a very longstanding relationship with Harbour and we are extremely careful to maintain client confidentiality which I am sure you will appreciate and similarly maintain.”

Thatcher was unavailable for comment.

Lord Glenconner (deceased), land owner

The  Scottish aristocrat, a close friend of Princess Margaret, who owned a swath of land on the Caribbean island of St Lucia, held his assets through an offshore company, Beau Estates.

Lord Glenconner, who died in 2010, frequently hosted the Queen’s late sister on glamorous trips to the Caribbean.

After he died, Glenconner’s family were surprised to discover that he had left his shares in Beau Estates to his manservant, Winston Kent Adonai, and fought the will. Beau Estates was set up in Panama in 1988 before being transferred to the BVI.

The original documents show that the company was controlled by “Mr Lord Glenconner”.

Willian, 27, footballer

The Chelsea footballer was the sole shareholder in a BVI company called Saxon Sponsoring Limited, which was set up in September 2013.

His address in the UK was given as Chelsea’s training ground in Cobham, Surrey.

A spokesman for the midfielder – whose full name is Willian Borges da Silva – said the company had lain dormant before being closed down last year.

Stanley Kubrick (deceased), director

The semi-recluse spent the last decades of his life in a grand 18th-century manor in Hertfordshire which, it emerged, was transferred to offshore companies controlled by his daughters.

After Kubrick died in 1999, the ownership of the property passed to three companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, a move that could have saved the family hundreds of thousands of pounds in inheritance tax.

The house is now owned by Anya K Holdings Ltd, Vivian K Holdings Ltd and Katharina K Holdings Ltd.

The companies’ names refer to his daughters Anya, who died in 2009, Vivian, and his stepdaughter Katharina.

Jackie Chan, 61, actor

Chan owned at least six offshore companies, also based in the British Virgin Islands.

The holdings included companies called Jumbo Jaz Investment, Jackie Chan Ltd and Dragon Stream Ltd.

He has yet to respond to approaches for comment.

Sir Nick Faldo, 58, golfer

Faldo was the sole shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company called Blenhim Road Ltd, which was set up in 1995, two years after the six-time majors winner turned professional.

The company was reportedly shut down in 2009, at about the time his playing career was starting to wind down. Faldo declined to comment.

Andy Cole, 44, retired footballer

The former Manchester United and England striker appears to have used a company called Crewzen Finance Limited to own a semi-detached house in Nottingham. Cole bought the property in his home town in 2009 for £84,000.

The former Manchester United striker declined to comment. There is no suggestion of illegal behaviour by any of those mentioned.

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