Saturday 25 January 2020

Ferguson and Cowell among host of well-known names in leaked papers

Film director, martial arts star and ex-footballer also named in Mossack Fonseca files

Sarah Ferguson Photo: Ian West/PA Wire
Sarah Ferguson Photo: Ian West/PA Wire
Stanley Kubrick
Andy Cole Photo: Graham Chadwick/Allsport
Simon Cowell Photo: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images
Mark Thatcher Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall
Heather Mills Photo: John Phillips/PA Wire

Tom Morgan

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

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 revelations.

Since her divorce from Britain's Prince Andrew, the Duchess has made up to £2m (€2.5m) a year from a variety of roles, including as an ambassador for Weight Watchers, but lost more than £3.2m (€4m) after 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, Ms Ferguson'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 Ms Ferguson, who has recently announced plans to move to Verbier and has applied to become a resident of Switzerland, reportedly said she always disclosed all sources of income in her tax returns.

Other celebrities and well-known figures featured in the leak to the 'Guardian' newspaper:

Simon Cowell (56)

The music tycoon 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, according to the 'Guardian'. His spokesman reportedly said the companies were set up by "accountants acting for him as a common means for an overseas investor to purchase property in Barbados", adding "the companies were never used for anything at all."

Paul Burrell (57)

Burrell, the butler to Diana, the Princess of Wales, is said to own shares in a company called Black Dragon Group Ltd, set up on BVI 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 a possible registered agent for the company. It is not clear whether the company was ultimately transferred. Burrell turned down approaches for comment.

Heather Mills (48)

Mills, who was awarded pounds £24.3m (€30m) in her divorce from Paul McCartney, was a shareholder of Water 4 Investment Ltd. However, Mills said the investment ended in a legal battle that cost 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 a statement.

Mark Thatcher (62)

The businessman son of Margaret Thatcher 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 Ltd. 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." Mr Thatcher was unavailable for comment.

Lord Glenconner (deceased)

The Scottish aristocrat, a close friend of Princess Margaret, who owned a swathe 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 British queen's late sister on 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 and fought the will. Beau Estates was set up in Panama in 1988 before being transferred to the BVI.

Stanley Kubrick (deceased)

The film director spent the last decades of his life in a grand 18th-century Hertfordshire manor which, it emerged yesterday, 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 BVI, 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. These refer to daughters Anya, who died in 2009, Vivian, and stepdaughter Katharina.

Jackie Chan (61)

The actor 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.

Nick Faldo (58)

Faldo, who won six golf majors, was the sole shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company called Blenhim Road Ltd, which was set up in 1995. The company was reportedly shut down in 2009 at about the time Faldo's playing career was winding down. He declined to comment.

Andy Cole (44)

The former Manchester United and England footballer 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 (€104,000).

The former Manchester United striker declined to comment.

There is no suggestion of illegal behaviour by any of those mentioned.

Irish Independent

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