Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft has settled his libel action over a website claim that his companies offered banking facilities which helped customers unlawfully to evade tax.
Lord Ashcroft, the chairman and majority shareholder in BB Holdings Limited, accepted a public apology and a substantial undisclosed donation to a charity he founded – Crimestoppers – from accountant Richard Murphy.
Lord Ashcroft’s counsel, Godwin Busuttil, told Mr Justice Eady at the High Court that in April this year Murphy published an article on his website entitled “Lord Ashcroft’s Belize Bank – a supplier of tax evasion services?”
It accused the claimants of knowingly and intentionally supplying or offering to supply banking facilities which enabled or assisted customers unlawfully to evade tax and which provided anonymity for those who had indulged in criminal activity and which enabled or assisted the laundering of dishonestly or criminally acquired funds by using the Bank’s corporate credit cards.
Busuttil said Murphy, of Downham Market, Norfolk, appeared to have based his allegations on his understanding of what he had read on a third party’s website, but that in fact that website said no such thing and its owners had subsequently confirmed that they were not making any such allegations nor were they even referring to the claimants.
An accusation of tax evasion based upon something he’d misunderstood.