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Finance Tory tax-dodgers are no friends of ours

BIG-MONEY Tory donor Douglas Barrowman has just moved his tax avoidance business from the Isle of Man to Panama.

Multimillionaire Barrowman is the founder and chairman of the Knox Group, which offers “financial, investment and property management services” to the very well-off.

The Scottish Daily Herald reported this month that one of the Knox Group firms, called Watchdale Ltd, has been moved from the Isle of Man to Panama — that is to say, from offshore to very offshore. 

As the Herald revealed, Watchdale Ltd was used to market a tax avoidance arrangement called “employee benefit trusts” to the very wealthy. 

These instruments helped shelter the earnings of the very rich from tax. They were legal when Barrowman’s firm arranged them for clients, but they were too much even for the Tories. George Osborne declared them “morally repugnant” and banned them.

Barrowman is well connected to the Conservatives. He is both a business partner and romantic partner of Michelle Mone. She is a very successful businesswoman, thanks to her founding bra and lingerie firm Ultimo, and is also a Tory peer.

This year, one of Barrowman’s Knox Group firms also became a major Tory donor.

On May 26, a company called Lancaster Knox gave £50,000 to the Tories — this is the price of membership of the Tory “leaders’ group” of donors whose members are invited to join Theresa May and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners.

The donation was made when the Tories were collecting cash for May’s election campaign.

Lancaster Knox says its business is “providing advice and tax services to high net worth individuals, entrepreneurs and their families.” That advice is all about keeping rich people’s cash away from the taxman. Its website has the slogan “Preserving Wealth” and its crest is a lion and a unicorn with a banner reading: “Opes conservationem” — which means wealth preservation in Latin.  

Lancaster Knox tries to attract clients with a “case study” on its website about reducing property tax “for a non-UK resident looking to purchase an elegant 6,000-square-foot, six-storey residential town house, with a mews property attached, situated just off the prestigious Sloane Square, Belgravia.”

According to its case study, the client “has a number of homes around the world and also has a considerable portfolio of commercial property.”

The Knox Group offers other services to the super-rich. Its group website also quotes a case study of  helping a client with “purchase of a superyacht.” It shows that the Tories literally represent the have-yachts, not the have-nots. 

While May talks about the “just about managing,” her party is funded by the just-about-managing-to-avoid-tax-on-Chelsea-mansions.

The economic model for May’s election campaign was to raise big money from “high net worth donors” and spend this money on negative Facebook ads and videos attacking Jeremy Corbyn. It was a plan to use rich people’s money to campaign without having many actual active supporters. It wasn’t that successful for the Tory Party.

This campaign model underwrites an economic model for the country, which fixes tax rates and regulations in favour of these “high value” donors, which is a disaster for the nation.


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