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tv   BBC News  BBC News  November 5, 2017 6:00pm-6:31pm GMT

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this is bbc news. breaking news... as we go on air, the first results are being released of a special investigation into the offshore tax secrets of some of the world's richest and most powerful people — it follows a leak of documents known as the paradise papers. the bbc panorama programme has discovered that millions of pounds of the queen's private money is invested in offshore funds based in the cayman islands and bermuda by her private estate, the duchy of lancaster. the revelation comes from a cache of more than 13 million secret documents — one tax expert says it's likely to embarrass buckingham palace. the papers also disclose how donald trump's commerce secretary has business links with russian allies of president putin who are subject to us sanctions. and the spotlight is on the conservative party donor lord ashcroft: the files suggest he could face a tax bill of tens of millions because of the way he may have used an offshore trust. do you have tens of millions in an
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offshore trust that he secretly control? does that mean you could avoid millions of tax through that trust? why don't you just talk to me? it would be great to hear your view. over the next half an hour, this bbc news special programme will report on the first revelations of the paradise papers — and the issues they raise about the secretive world of offshore finance and tax avoidance. hello and welcome to this bbc news special programme. and the breaking news is that in the last few moments, the first results have been released following an investigation of one
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of the biggest ever leaks of offshore secrets, 13 million documents, mostly from an offshore law firm called appleby; they are known as the paradise papers and they reveal the tax affairs of rich and powerful people around the world. they've been obtained by the german newspaper su—deutsche zeitung and shared with the international consortium of investigativejournalists — including in the uk, the guardian and the bbc‘s panorama programme. they show how the duchy of lancaster, which is the queen's private estate, invested around £10 million offshore. some of the money went into the off licence chain threshers which later went bust owing more than £17 million in tax. and a small amount went into brighthouse, the hire purchase company that's been accused of charging inflated interest rates.
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the leaked documents also reveal that this man — wilbur ross, donald trump's friend and commerce secretary — has business ties with russian allies of president putin who are subject to us sanctions. and they suggest lord ashcroft, the donor and former deputy chairman of britain's conservative party may have ignored rules around how his offshore investments were managed. other papers suggest he retained his non domiciled status while in the house of lords, despite reports he'd become a permanent tax resident in the uk. it's important to say that tax avoidance is not illegal, but it is controversial — and these latest revelations are bound to fuel the political debate around offshore tax havens and whether governments should do more to clamp down on them. our first report is by richard bilton from the bbc panorama team which has been investigating the paradise papers. it is an island paradise, but there
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isa it is an island paradise, but there is a lot more to bermuda than just beaches and son. it is a tax haven, secrecy beaches and son. it is a tax haven, secrecy and 0% tax rates. one of the world's biggest offshore companies, appleby, is based here. 7 million documents have been leaked. for months we had to carry out secret research. that is behead offers. we have to be —— on the head office. we have to be —— on the head office. we have to be very careful, because appleby don't know we have said —— data. the leak is known as the paradise papers. it contains some of the biggest names in britain. like the biggest names in britain. like the queen's private estate. the queen's investments are handled by the duchy of lancaster. now, because of the files, we can seek sexy where some of that money was coming. £10
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million was invested in tax havens. —— we can see where some... it is perfectly legal and there was no question that tax was being avoided. that should be monitored's cash be going offshore? if the cash was going offshore? if the cash was going abroad, i would think it was being extremely embarrassing. we accept higher standards of the queen in terms of where the investments are located. the duchy told us... the paradise papers also expose a new link between president trump's government and the russians. it is wilbur ross, she is president trump's, secretary. this man is the sanctioned friend of president
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putin. we have found that these two men have a business link. wilbur ross said that he would cut ties with companies that could compromise his new role in the us government. your service has resulted in you divesting yourself of literally hundreds of millions of dollars. you did it to avoid any conflict—of—interest, crept? did it to avoid any conflict-of-interest, crept? that is correct sir. we don't think that is correct. —— correct. we found she has a stake in navigator holdings, one of its major clients is a russian company. a shareholder was sanctioned by the us government in 2014. you don't want to get involved with someone who gets involved, or walks up to the line with sanctioned individuals. if you know anything
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about the russians, in the current system it is easy to get dirty. don't go there, man. don't go there. mr ross told us that none of the funds he managed ever owned a majority of navigator shares and he never met the russian. there are revelations closer to home. i'm michael lord ashcroft sweat... lord ashcroft was tory deputy chairman and gave millions to the party. but what we found in the files could leave him facing a tax bill of tens of millions. a series of payments totalling around $200 million were made to him from a trust in bermuda. to avoid tax on those payments, the trust must act independently. if lord ashcroft ignored the rules he could face a big bill from the taxman. e—mail is seen by us suggest
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a rising sense of frustration among the trustees that lord ashcroft was not playing by the rules. to put it bluntly,... it not playing by the rules. to put it bluntly, . .. it looks not playing by the rules. to put it bluntly, . . . it looks like not playing by the rules. to put it bluntly,... it looks like lord ashcroft was controlling the trust and expecting the trustees to rubber—stamp his decision to limit. iam richard, rubber—stamp his decision to limit. i am richard, i work philip panorama. he wouldn't answer written questions i caught up with him at the tory party conference. do you have an offshore trust with tens of millions that you secretly control? does that mean you considerably control? why don't you just talk to me? to be great to hear your view. dear, dear, dear. is that your response. his lawyers later said that i had started shouting something at him, by which time he
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had walked away and heard nothing of what i said. we could have been sponsored, we've done about all of the half. despite two minutes of questions, lord ashcroft would not give us his side. i will not follow you in there. appleby told us that they do not specialise in tax. these are commercially sensitive documents relating to appleby and its clients. these are the first names from the paradise papers, but there are more to come from this extraordinary link. and richard biltonjoins me now from belfast. how significant do you think these revelations are and what will be their impact? this is an enormously, panorama had been working on this for the best pa rt been working on this for the best part of a year. we have been poring over the documents and their is a lot in there. it reveals a lot about
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this world. the leak is from appleby, a company based in tax havens, and they basically brokered deals for rich individuals and for big companies. in that offshore world, tax havens, people go there for simple reasons. the low tax rates and lax regulation and for secrecy. rates and lax regulation and for secrecy. but that environment creates a reason to go there if perhaps you wanted to dodge tax or worse. and through these documents we get to see that world. we get to see the sort of deals that are talked about and brokered. tell us what it's been like working on this investigation secretly for the past year? it has been an enormous job, it has been an enormousjob, but it has been an enormous job, but it isa it has been an enormous job, but it is a dramatic leak i think. if you think of other leaks that have been out there, people are familiar with the panama papers, i and out there, people are familiar with the panama papers, iand panorama worked on that last spring. that
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itself was pretty explosive and dramatic. because it pulled back the curtain and showed what the offshore world was like. why i think this is bigger and dramatic, particularly in britain, is because appleby worked in the uk tax havens. they have ten officers and are linked to the uk. it isa officers and are linked to the uk. it is a secret british empire of offshore. we can see the sort of things they are doing. consequently, there are more british people and mission british companies in there. we're talking about politicians, pop stars, sports stars, multinational companies. these are big people and more names will emerge in the coming days. thank you, richard. you can see that panorama special cheer on the bbc news channel in the uk in just over one hour's time. and the viewers around the world it is on abc world news in one hour's time. our business correspondent
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andy verity is here. -- bbc —— bbc world news. -- bbc world news. what they show, she had a trust where he put hundreds of millions of pounds in 2000 in bermuda. we also see in the documents that have been revealed, that he was drawing down payments from it, around £150 million is documented. the thing with the trust is that if you are a wealthy individual you can put your money into it, and so long as you don't have control over it, you don't have to declare attacks, it is supposed to declare attacks, it is supposed to be for the benefit of someone else. but if you remain in the control of payments, the trust structure doesn't work. and the documents explained that the trustees of the trust were concerned about the payments going out without
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them knowing. one trustee says, i would like to emphasise that it is imperative that at all times trustees know of all transactions prior to them occurring. clearly that wasn't happening, lord ashcroft had that put him and declined to come back. what do you make of the revelations about the queen's private money and how it was invested by the duchy of lancaster? this is a fascinating story because we rarely get insight into the queen's private investments. the duchy of lancaster is her private vehicle if you like. it has hundreds of millions and we're talking about tens of millions, which is a fraction but still a sizeable amount of money. it went in the the cayman islands and you do. from that money a small amount went on from there into a retailer called bright house. mps have attacked it for charging inflated interest rates to some of
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the poorest people in the country. nicholas witchelljoins me now. any reaction from the palace? no. they are leaving it to the duchy duchy of lancaster. it is the pricing and mystifying. how could her advisers who has placed this money on her behalf, have thought that it was appropriate for her money to be placed offshore. it is important that we stress that there is no question of tax avoidance in her case. point of fact, the duchy of lancaster is exempt from paying uk tax, it has a crown exemption. the queen voluntarily pays tax on her private income. from the duchy of lancaster last year was £19 million, a significant income. but it is the association with this
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activity of tax avoidance which is, i think without any question, embarrassing to her. and it is the absence of common sense and prudence, displayed by her advisers that thinking she, of all people, he was respected because she sets a good example, what can they have been thinking? placing her money offshore. let's delve a bit deeper now into what's been revealed about the finances of one of president trump's key aides, the us commerce secretary wilbur ross. the paradise papers show that mr ross has an interest in navigator holdings, a shipping company which earns millions a year transporting oil and gas for the russian energy firm sibur. two russians, who are shareholders in sibur, are currently subject to various forms of sanctions by the united states. one of them is this man
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...leonid mikhelson... the other is gennady timchenko, who an old friend of president putin. a separate connection between the kremlin and sibur is that another of the company's shareholders — kirill shamalov — is married to the president's daughter. the commerce spokesman in the us said mr ross had never met the three russian shareholders. our north america correspondent barbara plett usher is in washington. has there been any response yet from the trump administration? we have had that statement, did tone generally was that he did not do anything illegal. he did have the sta ke anything illegal. he did have the stake in the company which does a lot of business with the russians, but this statement noted that the russian company itself has never
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been sanctioned. even though we know its major shareholders have been. it confirmed that mr ross had been on the board of directors of the shipping company for two years, but it said he had never met the oligarchs in question or the son—in—law of president putin. it also said that mr ross had recused himself from trans—owes yannick shipping issues, that he generally supported sanctions against russian entities and he was working closely with ethics officials to uphold standards. having said that there will still be questions about potential conflict of interests, because he has interest in sanctions of trade and it doesn't look very goodin of trade and it doesn't look very good in the current climate in washington. which is caught up in potential links between the trump administration and the russians. this looks like one of the first reported business links, even though an indirect one, the twin a member
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of the trump administration and someone of the trump administration and someone in president putin's inner circle. so what are offshore investment funds — and why are they so controversial? well our economics editor kam—al ahmed now explains. for centuries britain has been a focus of finance. that is seen by many for the good of our economy and global trade. we allow companies set up global trade. we allow companies set up in the uk and not be taxed here. our imperial past is also important. across the world are what are called crown dependencies or overseas territories. places likejersey crown dependencies or overseas territories. places like jersey and guernsey and the isle of man, which have an arm's length relationship with us and have based their economy on low tax office to companies and individuals to hold some of their
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welfare. others are more far—flung places like gibraltar, as well as bermuda, the british virgin islands, the cayman islands, and turks and caicos. such places insist they are good for growth. they allow firms and individuals avoiding being taxed multiple times by different countries. they have been a lot of new rules on transparency as well. but, they are criticised for being too secret. two week on regulation and to open to corruption. critics say that the laws have also failed to keep up with global companies that can move vast amounts of money around the world at the touch of va ca nt around the world at the touch of vacant due to keep. we are not the only ones to lure companies to our shores. —— computer key. other
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countries involves singapore, switzerland and america which have low tax systems in many states. it is also important to note that tax evasion is illegal but tax avoidance isa evasion is illegal but tax avoidance is a structure to register tax levels. how much can this be worth to national exchequer is likely treasury? globally, anything between £75 billion and £180 billion. many now believe that avoidance has become so controversial that needs to bea become so controversial that needs to be a complete change to global tax laws so that taxes are paid in the country where the firm or company is based. that might mean tax going up which some disagree with, but controversy would probably die down. a statementjust in from
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the labour party reacting to these revelations that we have been bringing you in the last few minutes. this is from john mcdonnell, the labour shadow chancellor, responding to the paradise papers, saying, these are deeply worrying revelations, despite all the government's claims of cracking down on tax dodgers, this evidence confirms that tax avoidance is clearly continuing on an industrial scale, says is clearly continuing on an industrial scale, sastohn mcdonnell for labour. either the prime minister or the chancellor is to explain how this scandalous behaviour has been allowed to go one unaddressed for so long. that is from john mcdonnell. i'm joined now by tom keatinge, the director of the centre for financial crime and security studies at rusi. what is your reaction? no surprise. but offshore centres provide a service, and if you can avoid to use those services to move your money
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around the world then you will do. frankly, no surprise. we saw the lea k of frankly, no surprise. we saw the leak of the panama papers, now the paradise papers, did anything change with the mass leak of the panama papers? public perception is rising, politicians are clearly getting more hot under the collar about this issue. i think the fundamental issue issue. i think the fundamental issue is that something needs to be done globally, something needs to be done to stop the ability to move money around the world like this. if you can around the world like this. if you ca n afford around the world like this. if you can afford to move money to places and avoid paying tax, then why not do it. that is what we face right now, we need a complete rethink about how the centres can operate. thank you. gerard ryle is the director of the international consortium of investigativejournalists, he joins me from washington. your organisation is responsible for collating this information discovered. this is one of the biggest leaks of data
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from an offshore company in history , tell us about how you got it and brought together the journalists around the world who investigated it. we heard from the german newspaper who handed davis various different sources. we have about 21 leaks, the majority is from appleby, but we had a second company, and offshore services provider in singapore, and have 19 secrecy jurisdictions. basically their information from the registers they keep in each country. we're looking at about a fifth of offshore secret world. the law firm at the centre of this , appleby, describes this as an illegal computer hack , what's your response? the documents speak for themselves, it is important to public to find out this information and make up their own minds. we did not break any laws, we got this information and complied with laws in this last
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year, by working with 400 journalists in 16 countries to look through these documents and see what is in the public interest. people might say that if you are going to keep having these mass leaks, you worry about the confidence that can't have in these offshore funds? we are talking about the richest people in the world and the biggest companies in the world. you will see over the next few days, it details about multinational companies and the hijinks they are wrapped to to avoid tax. the offshore world only has one product and that is secrecy. every time this happens you are chipping away at their one product and the thing they can actually sell. how significant do you think these paradise papers revelations are? i do think in some ways it is more significant than the panama papers because we are looking at high price locales, the cayman
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islands and places we have not seen before. appleby itself, they cater to high end clients. the panama papers in some regards was passed off as papers in some regards was passed offasa papers in some regards was passed off as a rogue phone that was doing bad things. this is not the same, this is very different, these are high end clients and a high end law firm. it is part of the magic circle of offshore law firms. it is a very different set of data and a very different set of data and a very different set of revelations. that's it from this special programme on the day we saw the first revelations from one of the biggest leaks of offshore financial dealings. i will be back with more reaction in half an hour on the bbc news channel. it has been a cracking autumn day for many of us, chilly but bright.
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this is how it looked in derbyshire. there have been showers as well, this beautiful rainbow off the coast of north yorkshire. here's the satellite picture from earlier on, extensive sunshine, but shower clouds into the west as well as the north—east. some of those showers will continue in the evening but where we have the clear skies it's going to get cold very quickly. if you are out to any bonfire night celebrations across scotland, three or 4 degrees, that's probably quite optimistic. temperatures will be hurtling towards freezing in places. northern ireland, six or seven. still the potential for one or two showers by 8pm across the coast, lincolnshire and norfolk. generally speaking, it will be fine across central and western areas of england and wales, just one or two showers. most showers fading away as we go through the night. it will get cold in the east, even towns and cities very close to freezing.
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in the countryside, lows of —3, —4, perhaps —6 in the most prone spots. things already turning a bit milder by monday morning across the west, because of this approaching frontal system. this is not in any rush, it's moving very slowly but it will thicken up the cloud in western areas as we go through the day. some patchy rain, any heavy rain really confined to the north—west of scotland. further east, a bright day to come after a chilly start. any early fog lifting quickly to leave spells of sunshine, still chilly at 9 degrees norwich but turning a bit milder out west. that milder air is being drawn up ahead of the frontal system, turning windy ahead as well. this band of rain trudges east into the first part of tuesday, cold air will tuck into the back of it could well turn the rain to snow over the high ground of scotland, our band of rain quite erratically moving east during the day on tuesday.
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brighter skies follow, then a return to colder conditions, 9 degrees the afternoon high in belfast. plenty of ups and downs in our weather which continue into wednesday and thursday, wednesday lovely crisp autumn day, thursday bringing rain moving south and east. hello. this is bbc news. the headlines: the bbc panorama programme has discovered that millions of pounds of the queen's private money is invested in offshore funds based in the cayman islands and bermuda by her private estate, the duchy of lancaster the revelation comes from a cache of more than 13 million secret documents — one tax expert says it's likely to embarrass buckingham palace. the papers also disclose how donald trump's commerce secretary has business links with russian allies of president putin who are subject to us sanctions. and the spotlight is on the conservative party donor lord ashcroft: the files suggest
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he could face a tax bill of tens of millions because of the way he may have used an offshore trust. and in other news, the prime minister's deputy,
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