These Panama revelations are just so astonishing, aren’t they?

Simon Cowell
The music tycoon 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. The companies were set up at a time when Cowell was planning to purchase two plots of land in Barbados, where he holidays most years.

Lord Glenconner
The 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.

Land in the Caribbean might be owned through a Caribbean company.

We’re shocked, shocked, right?

34 thoughts on “These Panama revelations are just so astonishing, aren’t they?”

  1. So far, all I have heard is innuendo and insinuation. Apart from what we already knew – 3rd world dictators fleece their own people, and the foreign aid they receive – what actual evidence is there of law-breaking?

    The Groan has left comments off for, as far as I can see, every article on Panama. So its own readers can’t ask any questions.

    They don’t seem to have confidence that they can defend what they are printing, so why should anyone else?

  2. And the latest line of attack on CallmeDave is that he should publically declare his father’s financial affairs.

    Just like all Labour politicians don’t… (Hodge…ahem…) And shouldn’t, since their parents are 3rd parties.

    Really, they’ve gone seriously downhill with their lines of attack since Mandlebum and Campbell.

  3. I assume this defence covers TW’s company registered in the BVI.
    As a land taxer , he should be supporting the Labour Land Campaign case for land value tax on landed assets that can’t be offshored.

  4. Hang on, why does he need a company in the BVI in order to buy property in Barbados? That’s like registering a company in (say) Jersey in order to buy a property on the Isle of Man. They’re completely different jurisdictions.

  5. @DBC Reed
    April 7, 2016 at 10:31 am

    As a land taxer , he should be supporting the Labour Land Campaign case for land value tax on landed assets that can’t be offshored.

    First I’ve heard of such a policy, if indeed it is one, rather than just in someone’s wishlist with no detailed proposal actually defined. Like all the others.

    Is it a revenue-neutral Land Value Tax, or is it just a Labour plan to tax everything – whether it moves or not?

  6. @Andrew M
    April 7, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Hang on, why does he need a company in the BVI in order to buy property in Barbados? That’s like registering a company in (say) Jersey in order to buy a property on the Isle of Man. They’re completely different jurisdictions.

    Indeed – or like registering a company in the UK to buy land in Barbados. Why does being in a different jurisdiction matter at all?

  7. In answer to my own question – the BVI offer company ownership secrecy. Presumably Mr Cowell doesn’t want the good people of Barbados to know who actually owns that nice plot of prime beachfront real estate, lest they start singing protest songs on his talent shows.

    On the other hand, what does it matter? Two seconds on Google tell me that he has a house in Holland Park, which he obviously doesn’t feel the need to keep secret.

  8. Andrew M and DBC Reed, I look forward to the full and transparent publication of all your tax and financial affairs in the very near future.

  9. Henry Crunt,
    I’m not asking for full disclosure; merely seeking to understand what he has to hide.

    If there’s a moral right to privacy of property ownership, then we should dissolve the Land Registry. But I haven’t heard that argument.

  10. “The country’s land”? Has private property been abolished? I also think the army is there to defends the people and their land.

  11. Who owns the country’s land, the land that our army defends

    So far I have defended Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq (again), Kosovo and Afghanistan?

    I didn’t even manage to defend Nor’n Ireland, ffs.

  12. DBC,
    The recent ATED (Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings) is a ham-fisted attempt to clamp down on such practices. Clunkiness aside, presumably you’re broadly in favour of it?

  13. Andrew M said:

    If there’s a moral right to privacy of property ownership, then we should dissolve the Land Registry. But I haven’t heard that argument.

    Yet.

    How transparent property ownership and company ownership is is down to each jurisdiction. What is wrong with a little bit of secrecy competition? It is hardly any different to tax competition.

  14. I really don’t care about Simon Cowell specifically.

    What exactly are the advantages to setting up a company in BVI to buy a property other than tax avoidance?

    The most logical other places to set up the companies is in Barbados or Britain. Why was BVI a better option than the countries which are actually involved?

  15. From Labour Land Campaign “Therefore, a tax on land values is a fair tax, because the person who owns land derives benefit from something which he or she has not made.” Oh FFS! This would only apply if you had owned the piece of land since creation! If I buy a slice of Oxford Street, say, in what way is the money I pay for the property necessarily not derived from my own efforts? Ludicrous!

  16. Perhaps BVI makes it easy to set up companies for various purposes – easier perhaps than other jurisdictions. As Tim has said in the past, setting up a company in some jurisdictions is a bureaucratic nightmare (this was in Portugal AFAIR).

  17. LY>

    Without passing comment on Simon Cowell, Barbados is not somewhere you’d want to put your money if you’re attached to it. The place has a culture of ripping-off and stealing from foreigners that runs through their society like the words in a stick of rock. Even the local clergy get in on the act, and the police aren’t interested.

    https://barbadosfreepress.wordpress.com/tag/barbados-land-fraud/

    I think Barbados was one of the countries running the ‘not your land’ scam as well – the one where forged documents say you don’t own whatever you bought, but no-one will listen when you hold up the originals and point out that the others are obvious forgeries.

  18. Liberal Yank,
    BVI companies provide secrecy of ownership. That’s their main advantage over a UK company.

    Gareth,
    > What is wrong with a little bit of secrecy competition?

    I don’t particularly care who buys what in Barbados (although their citizens might care). I also don’t particularly care if you own a stack of gold bricks in a vault in Switzerland. But I do care if you buy a house down the road without following the same rules as the rest of us. In the UK the law says that you must disclose your name when you buy a property, and disclose how much you paid for it. You also have to pay stamp duty (however stupid and regressive a tax it may be).

    When a property is sold by a UK-based person and bought by an overseas shell company, we lose sight of who the beneficial owner is; although we still collect stamp duty. Obviously it goes against the spirit of the law, but it remains perfectly legal: disclosure avoidance rather than disclosure evasion.

    When a property changes hands by exchanging ownership of an overseas shell company, we also don’t collect any stamp duty. Again it’s perfectly legal: stamp duty avoidance rather than evasion.

    The government is clamping down on these practices with the ATED rules; it remains to be seen how big an impact they will have.

  19. I don’t believe gains on the sale of Barbados property are liable to Barbados taxation. The choice to use BVI appears to be based on SC wanting to own the property via a tax exempt corporate vehicle that’s cheap to establish/run (i.e. BVI). Note that if / when he sold the company the gains would be liable to UK, as would the gains if the property realised the gains.

  20. With all this fucking going on and you want to take a leap in the dark and tangle with big money market rigging by Americans and Chinese plus American interference in Middle East and Afghanistan leading to horrific refugee problems while in the hands of our ruling class which has deindustrialised the country and sold all the best property and assets to gangsters. Would I want to be governed by Europeans? Anybody would be better than our own corrupt wankers who are the real foreigners in our country.

  21. Bloke in Germany in Catalonia

    @MC,

    You enjoy the use of the land you own because you can call on the state, that organisation that holds the monopoly on force wherever you live, to deal with anyone who seeks to prevent you from enjoying the use of that land. It’s the mere existence of that option that stops most attempts by other people to deprive you of your property. The technicalities differ from country to country, but the principle is basically the same everywhere that has a functional state.

    Should you choose to own land in a place with no functional state, you will need your own private army to secure your enjoyment of your land. Which, as loathsome and wasteful as states tend to be, is considerably more expensive than having a state,

  22. Bloke in North Dorset

    DBC,

    When you started commenting on here you added some interesting stuff. Now you look like you’ve spent too long drinking the conspiracy koolaid.

  23. Bloke in Germany in Catalonia

    @DBC,

    I guess, being an incorrigible cynic, what a freelance wheeler-dealer might be well-advised to do would be the following:

    – Set up a company somewhere that has no corporation tax.
    – Have all fees paid to the company.
    – Be an employee of the company.
    – Draw a minimal salary and pay small amount of income tax on it in high-tax jurisdiction of residence. Also minimal social security so you have healthcare, etc.
    – Spend as much time as possible on “business trips” in high-cost high-tax jurisdictions. A local country you can pop across the border to, get a receipt from a cheap hotel every 3 months or whatever in order to prove you did not exceed the limit on claimable time “out of the office” would help. This means expenses like rent, transport, meals and so on are not taxable. Not essential but would contribute to quality of life whilst running the scheme.
    – Retire.
    – Move to somewhere with no CGT and stay just long enough to be tax resident. Extra easy if it’s the same jurisdiction where your company is resident.
    – Cash out the company.
    – Move to wherever you want to live the rest of your days.
    – Live the rest of your days.

  24. @BiG
    TW is always regaling us with inside knowledge: I would have thought this was has big opportunity.
    PS Is the above some kind of anti-Semitic reference? ( I am an innocent in such matters being pro-Jewish to the point of bigotry; something to do with seeing beautiful women with concentration camp numbers on their arms whilst I was at an impressionable age.)

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