A few interesting stories have emerged in the past few days about Britain’s Liberal Democrats, the minority party currently in the ruling coalition with the Conservative Party (which used to be the self-styled party of Business, but is now really the party of Finance.)
Let’s start with this one about a speech by LibDem Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The following heading and sub-heading say it all:
“Danny Alexander: firms in tax havens will be denied public money: Firms will be banned from getting public money if they are based in tax havens rather than mainland Britain, Danny Alexander has said.”
The UK Business Secretary, Vince Cable, had a similar but broader message:
The business secretary told delegates he would crack down on those who used secretive, low tax jurisdictions: “No one keeps their cash in tax havens for the quality of investment advice; these are sunny places for shady people,” he said.
So far, so good. But now look at these shockers. First, take a look at this from BBC Jersey, (which locals tell me — and this story is a prime example — is essentially a mouthpiece for the island’s tax haven industry. It concerns the LibDems’ leader, and the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg:
“The financial services industry in the Channel Islands has been described as “hugely important” by the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. He told the BBC the islands were “an important gateway for the wider financial sector and indeed the economy in the United Kingdom”.
Well, first of all, this is accurate: in Treasure Islands I describe Jersey as a feeder of vast gobs of global finance into the City of London. Yes, the Channel Islands tax havens are indeed ‘hugely important’ to the City of London – but that is absolutely not the same thing as saying that this is a good thing. No, Virginia: it is an appalling truth.
And then we get to what may, perhaps, be the nub of the issue. Take a look at this, from the Daily Mail: a firm called Brompton Capital, based in The Septic Isle (a term that many financial experts use to describe Tax Haven Jersey), which is:
“the biggest corporate backer of the Lib Dems, donating £777,000 since the General Election in 2010. . . . Shares in the firm are owned by an offshore firm called Integro Nominees (Jersey) Ltd, which is based in the Channel Island tax haven.”
The owner of the company has repeatedly refused to respond to questions about why his company shareholdings were based in Jersey, or why he had donated money to both the Lib Dems. One other recipient of the company’s money is Conservative Andrew Mitchell, who is fighting to save his job following claims he called Downing Street police officers ‘fucking plebs’ after they wouldn’t let him use the main gate at Downing street.
As Tax Research comments on Nick Clegg’s and the LibDem party’s acceptance of this money:
“Oh, how convenient. And how corrupt. He’s been bought.”
And there’s more. From the Guardian:
“Alpha Healthcare and its sister company C & C Alpha Group, part of a venture capital group in the private health sector, have together donated £970,000 to the Lib Dems since 2004. Alpha’s parent company, Harberry Investments, is based in a small office in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.”
If you think Jersey is dirty – that’s nothing compared to the gigantic global swamp of crime, corruption and secrecy that is the British Virgin Islands. (More on that quite soon.) And there’s plenty more on the LibDems’ offshore links in that same story.
(An aside: the owner of the Jersey company mentioned here won the UK Franchise for Domino’s Pizza, which was one of the star purchases for Mitt Romney’s Bain capital.)