11 Apr 2016

David Cameron and George Osborne: questions still to answer?

This weekend many papers published headlines with words to the effect of “Cameron comes clean on tax”, following the PM’s disclosure of his tax and income details. Are there more questions to answer?

There seem still to be great big gaping holes in the PM’s statements about his wealth – questions which Channel 4 News has been asking for almost a year.

The first is quite simply:

Has the Prime Minister ever invested any money off-shore, other than in Blairmore Holdings?

During his interview with ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston, David Cameron admitted investing in Blairmore Holdings – a fund set up by his father in Panama and based in the Bahamas.

But he did not state whether this was the only off-shore fund he had ever invested in.

We asked Downing Street this very question on Friday, and they responded with: “We have nothing to add to previous statements.”

This is a relatively simple question, especially for a Prime Minister who has spent the past four years championing transparency.

Did the Prime Minister ever invest in the Close International Equity Growth Fund, or the PMG Eagle Fund?

These are two other funds that Channel 4 News discovered the Prime Minister’s father owned shares in.

Both funds were based in Jersey, although PMG Eagle Fund may have transferred to the Cayman Islands in 2002 – we have discovered a fund there with exactly the same name, but because of fierce privacy laws there it is impossible to find out if Ian Cameron was involved.

The PMG Eagle Fund in Jersey operated between 1996 and 2002, investing in US companies.

It is argued that Blairmore Holdings – another of Ian Cameron’s funds which his son definitely did invest in – was based in Panama and the Bahamas to make trading in dollars easier.

It is not clear why a fund like the PMG Eagle Fund, investing solely in American firms, would not just be based in America.

Can the Prime Minister confirm that the sources of his inheritance from his father were not from off-shore sources?

The Prime Minster has said he cannot be sure of the source of his father’s estate.

However, UK Inheritance Tax Return forms have a box which specifically ask you to state the value of assets held outside the Britain.

The Prime Minister could very easily find out the extent of the legacy held off-shore by his late father.

Were the other £109,000-worth of shares from the Prime Minister’s 2009 tax return held off-shore?

We know that in 2009 the Prime Minister sold £140,000 worth of shares. This includes £31,000 from Blairmore Holdings.

But where were the other £109,000 worth of shares held? Were they off-shore?

George Osborne

And David Cameron is not the only senior Conservative of whom we have been asking questions for the last year.

In 2015 we published a report showing that George Osborne’s family firm — in which Mr Osborne declares a financial interest – sold its factory site to a company based in the British Virgin Islands in 2005.

The BVI company then transformed the plot in an expensive part of south London into an upmarket development of more than 40 homes – homes for which the Chancellor’s family business submitted a joint planning application to the local authority with the off-shore company.

After the application was granted, Mr Osborne’s family business sold the land outright to the offshore firm for £6,088,000.

And by being based off-shore the firm was presumably able to escape a raft of UK taxes once it finished the development.

At the time Mr Osborne was a beneficiary of a family trust that owned at least 15% of Osborne & Little at the time of the deal; and a shareholder in Osborne & Little Group Limited.

So the questions to Mr Osborne are:

Has the Chancellor ever benefited from the profits of offshore activity?

And at the time, a spokesman for Mr Osborne said: “This is a totally bogus and desperate story.”

In the current climate, does the Chancellor still feel it is ‘bogus and desperate’ to ask such questions?

By Paul McNamara and Guy Basnett