Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Phoney Blair's Secret Dodgy Dealings

Desperate New Labour has unveiled its 'secret weapon' in the election battle. A money-grabbing tax cheat, probed over 'cash for honours' with blood on his hands over Iraq. Phoney baloney Blair returned to his Sedgefield stomping ground with the mystery over his secret dodgy financial dealings hanging over his head.

Haunted by lies over the illegal war, perma-tanned Blair is left to wander the world with guilt on his shoulders and a stash of cash.

Millions of pounds have been channelled through a fog of commercial, charitable and religious con-tricks since the snake-oil salesman was booted out of office.

The extent of Blair's wealth is astonishing, leading some to describe his financial arrangements as 'Byzantine' and 'opaque'.

But the vast wealth from a £4.6m book deal, lucrative jobs advising a US bank and a Swiss insurer and a dodgy South Korean deal, is hidden away in commercial consultancy 'Tony Blair Associates', charities and shell companies.

The Mail, on Blair's case again today over "secret investment deals in low-tax regimes", reckons his earnings will hit around £40 million over five years. With wealth comes property. Paying £5.75m for a stately pile in Buckinghamshire in addition to the £4.45m paid for a London home in Connaught Square and an adjoining mews house.

There's a charity, the 'Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative', and another called the 'Tony Blair Faith Foundation'. Much of the income has been funnelled through a crafty structure called 'Windrush Ventures No 3 Limited Partnership'.

The Blair Rich Project's complex financial structures using highly specialised limited partnerships and parallel companies are a shameful mystery worth unravelling.

So much so that The Guardian recently launched an online competition offering a prize to the person who can "shine the brightest light".

Solving the mystery, the winner unearthed a little-known loophole in UK company law at the centre of the scam, being used by Blair to keep his finances secret. Accountant Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK identified the small print of the Partnership (Accounts) Regulations 2008 as the key to the mystery.

Blair would normally have to publish company accounts detailing the millions flowing into his various commercial ventures. But found a crafty way to keep his wealth secret. And that gave him the benefits of running a UK company but without prying eyes.

And what a complex web he weaves. At the heart are profit-making commercial schemes involving 12 different legal entities handling the unprecedented millions funnelled through a pair of "limited partnerships" - 'Windrush Ventures' and 'Firerush Ventures'.

The main vehicle, a so-called limited partnership, 'Windrush Ventures No 3 LP' consists on paper of a partnership between an entity owned by Blair himself and an anonymous off-the-shelf company. The Windrush structure pays for Blair's £560,000 a year lease on his Mayfair office.

While the law requires Blair to publish limited accounts for parts of the Windrush entities, the finances of the master-partnership remain a secret. But more than £6m has found its way down from the partnership into other companies.

Details of the full revenues remain hidden. At the centre are claims this gives Blair the advantage of an offshore "secrecy jurisdiction" while allowing him to state that he remains a regular, onshore, British taxpayer.

Blair could use these odd arrangements to transfer millions tax-free to his four children under an inheritance tax avoidance scheme, though Blair denies this.

However the ex-PM refuses to offer any explanation over why he is using the complex structures described by the Financial Times as "neither tax efficient nor managerially useful".

In 'Blair Enterprises', the structure is so artificial that in one part of it, Blair is, in effect, forming partnerships with himself. And one off-the-shelf company, merely called 'BDBCO No 819 Ltd' does not reveal its ownership on records at Companies House. Instead, its shares are listed as held by a second off-the-shelf entity, 'BDBCO No 822'.

The Orange Party can feel a headache coming on. And of course that's all part of the plan. Leave 'em shell-shocked with sham off-the-shelf shell companies.

But the plot thickens. Early last year Blair applied to set up the charity, the 'Tony Blair Africa Governance' initiative. But its application was not accepted until late in the year, partly amid concerns as to whether it was sufficiently separated from Blair's 'personal arrangements'.

So many complex tax dealings begs so many questions: Is Blair paying full UK tax on all overseas earnings? Are some companies in tax-havens, deliberately keeping client names secret? And what has Blair got to hide that he'd go to such extraordinary lengths and cost to keep his tax affairs so secret?

Warmongering Blair may have got away with his ill-gotten gains but the Orange Party feels it's time a forensic accountant took a fresh look at the legality of phoney baloney Blair's sordid shady tax dealings.

Blair wealth graphic: The Mail. Blair cash route graphic: The Guardian. Lower pictures: Private Eye covers 1154/1176.

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