Sir Philip Green’s sister-in-law, Lady Natasha Richardson, has told MPs she fears for her daughter, Mabel’s life after a tax partner at one of the offshore “securitisation” law firms is jailed.
Sir Philip Green has defended his role in offshore schemes that helped him reduce his tax bill, and she said that she was “horrified” after tax partners at the law firm that helped set up almost 500 companies for her daughter and her mother were jailed for encouraging the use of “bogus” foreign companies in an offshore tax scheme.
More than 50 people are facing jail over the controversial scheme, under which tax-paid companies were instead used to save millions of pounds on the owners’ UK tax bills.
It can be revealed that Charles Rennie, a partner at Cairdcourt, was jailed in June for his role in the scheme. Lady Richardson told MPs on the public accounts committee that Rennie now worked for a different law firm, and that Mabel, 23, did not go through the scheme with him.
But Richardson feared that her daughter and her mother were among those that may be forced to repay part of the scheme because they had been told to make payments of more than £50,000 each to allow companies that set up the scheme to refund part of the tax they paid.
“I was horrified to learn that tax partners from Cairdcourt, which was one of the firms that advised the firms that set up the CVD scheme, were in prison for setting up the scheme and passing on misleading advice to wealthy individuals that may have helped them evade paying tax in Britain,” she said.
The scandal of so-called “tax havens” came under scrutiny on Thursday morning when the prime minister, Theresa May, was pressed to commit more money to Britain’s overseas territories. Mrs May refused to commit to what critics say is a token £100m, but did say the new transparency regime for shell companies was “strangling” new criminality.
Lady Richardson said her daughter and her mother had each invested “a significant amount of money” in the scheme and that this was made “even worse” when she learned that Cairdcourt was one of the law firms that had been set up to set up the scheme.
“My sister-in-law was able to invest and so were they both at the time,” she said. “The worry was that there may be an issue in the future in relation to the future repayment, as part of that scheme.”
Rennie left the firm in June and joined another firm. Richardson said that many firms had offered to set up the firm that had held the scheme, with HMRC acting as a mediator. However, she said that she did not believe that Rennie had deliberately misled them, and “had no alternative but to go forward with the arrangements”.
Green had told MPs earlier this year that the pensions aspect of the scheme was illegal. The scheme’s lawyers told the judge in the case they were unable to consider the pension option because they believed it would put the scheme in breach of investment regulations. They said it was based on his knowledge of the pension scheme that he had set up himself, through the BHS pension fund.
Green also faced criticism after it emerged that one of the schemes he sought advice on was to set up a Swiss bank account holding £45m of offshore money. The Daily Telegraph exposed that Green had transferred pension fund assets to offshore accounts, and described the money as evidence that he wanted to keep it out of the UK tax net.