The BBC and Ashcroft

This looks interesting:

The Panorama programme, widely trailed over the weekend in the run-up to its anticipated Monday evening slot, alleged Ashcroft had avoided more than £3m in tax through a financial manoeuvre that involved transferring shares in the Impellam Group worth £17m to a trust to benefit his children.

Sources close to the peer claimed the programme was pulled because journalists had misinterpreted a company document released by Impellam on 6 April 2010.

Some of the interviews for the programme were filmed before the general election. Lawyers for Ashcroft have been engaged in a year-long battle with the BBC over the investigation into the Tory peer.

The Impellam document said the company \”had been notified that, following a transfer of an indirect interest in the company, Lord Ashcroft no longer has a beneficial interest in 25,745,349 ordinary shares of 1p each in the company. These shares represented the whole of his beneficial interest in the company\”.

The BBC\’s investigators interpreted this to mean that Ashcroft had controlled the shares and subsequently moved them into a trust to benefit his children, according to a Conservative source. Ashcroft\’s lawyers, however, argued that the use of the phrase \”indirect interest\” showed that he did not own the shares.

Certainly, I, no tax accountant or lawyer I agree, would interpret \”indirect interest\” as to mean no direct interest or ownership.

Which would, again I insist I am no expert in such things, I assume mean that there was no direct tax liability arising from the change in ownership of the shares. No IHT in advance as alleged in that first para.

I wonder who was the forensic accountant, the respected tax expert, that the BBC was using on this programme?

3 thoughts on “The BBC and Ashcroft”

  1. “Ashcroft’s lawyers, however, argued that the use of the phrase ‘indirect interest’ showed that he did not own the shares.”

    It would be interesting to know who actually did own the shares, given that they were generous enough to transfer £17m worth of them to Lord Ashcroft’s children!

  2. Sounds like the shares were always held in trust, and that Ashcroft was previously a potential beneficiary of that trust, but has now had himself removed.

    The children may always have been potential beneficiaries of the trust.

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