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Tory donors own UK properties via more than 150 offshore firms | Conservatives

Conservative donors, who have collectively donated more than £21m to the party since 2001, have been declared the ultimate owners of UK property owned by more than 150 offshore companies in a new public registry.

They include major developers such as brothers Reuben, David and Simon, as well as Nick Candy, a British businessman who owns a £160 million flat and other properties through companies based in Guernsey.

Others include Mohamed Amersi, a telecommunications businessman who owns real estate in London through a company registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and Sanjeev Gupta, the steel magnate behind steel firm Liberty Global, who owns real estate in Chelsea through a company registered in the Bahamas. .

The registry was created to increase transparency and help the tax authorities by showing the ultimate owners of British offshore property. The Guardian believes it is in the public’s interest to report on the business interests and ownership structures of those who fund our main political parties, especially the ruling party that passes transparency laws.

Owning property through offshore companies is legal and some people may have genuine and legitimate privacy or security or business reasons for using them.. Some investors also cite the stability of the tax regime in jurisdictions such as Jersey and Guernsey, due to the fact that their companies are based there or may be located abroad.

The tax regime has become less favorable for those who own property through offshore companies, which are liable for UK corporate tax, stamp duty, capital gains from property or the sale of shares, and some are subject to additional annual tax. However, the registry shows that thousands of investors prefer to store their assets through offshore companies.

Quick guide

UK for sale: reporting in the register of foreign legal entities


A new UK Government Overseas Registry has been created to improve transparency on UK property ownership and to help authorities ensure that the correct amount of tax is paid. Owning real estate through offshore companies is legal. Owners of property through offshore companies may do so for many reasons, from tax incentives to privacy or liking for the stability or ease of a particular offshore tax regime. Offshore taxation is “challenging”, according to the government.

But the ministers concluded that being transparent about foreign ownership of British property is an important step in improving the way the tax system works. “While the vast majority of people and businesses pay the correct amount of tax, mistakes are made,” the government said, explaining why the registry is being introduced. The foreign entity registry appears to be a big step forward in terms of transparency, with thousands of owners, including those reported by The Guardian, claiming ownership. All persons listed in the register as beneficial owners have complied with their legal obligations to declare their assets. About a quarter of filing companies still do not publicly disclose their property because trusts are only required to provide information about their beneficiaries to the tax authorities.

The Guardian has previously reported on offshore ownership of companies through leaks such as the Paradise Papers and the Pandora Papers, leading governments, including the UK government, to look more closely at international tax affairs and offshore secrecy. The Guardian believes that the disclosure of property in the UK held by foreign and offshore firms of the wealthy, powerful and politically connected increases this process of transparency and allows readers to better understand the power structures that affect their daily lives.

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All persons listed in the register as beneficial owners have complied with their legal obligations to declare their assets.

Real estate magnates David and Simon Reuben are the beneficiaries of 106 UK property companies, most of which are based in the British Virgin Islands. Among the British properties is the Admiralty Arch, owned by three companies registered in Guernsey. Former government offices at the mall entrance are being redeveloped into a luxury hotel and private residence.

Through their firm Investors in Private Capital, the brothers have donated more than £900,000 to the Conservative Party since 2008. In September, Investors in Private Capital also provided Boris Johnson with furnished office space for a year worth £85,000.

A spokesman for the Reuben brothers said: “All entities are required to pay taxes in the UK and all taxes due have been paid in accordance with HMRC.”

Telecommunications businessman Mohamed Amersi is registered as the beneficial owner of real estate in London through a company in the British Virgin Islands. Since 2018, Amersi has given over £400,000 to the Conservatives.

Amersi told The Guardian the company was a development project he funded to turn the property into apartments, most of which have been sold. He said the project was in the red and the company “is likely to be taken over by long-term apartment tenants for a nominal sum, allowing them to manage the property themselves.”

Stanley Fink.
Stanley Fink. Photo: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament

He added: “My tax advisors have confirmed that the use of BVI companies has in no way reduced my or anyone else’s tax liability.” Amersi also said that the introduction of the register of foreign organizations was a “positive development.”

Gupta has not commented on his beneficial ownership of west London property through the Bahamian company. He gave around £37,000 in auction gifts and hospitality to two Conservative MPs.

Other donors on the list include two colleagues: Irwin Laidlaw, who donated about £3.2 million when the Tories were in opposition, and Stanley Fink, a former Conservative Party treasurer on leave with the Lords, who donated about £3.7 million. m for over 20 years.

Fink owns part of the building at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London through a Guernsey-based company. Fink said the structure was created before he was offered the opportunity to invest, and he was passionate about the renovation of the Grade I listed building. “I agreed to invest with the only vehicle offered to me. As I am a UK resident, normally resident and permanent resident, I do not benefit from this arrangement and would indeed be just as happy or even happier with a structure in the UK,” Fink said.

“To the best of my knowledge and belief, I have not received any tax benefits from this entity.”

Laidlaw has a portfolio of offices and homes owned by at least nine Isle of Man companies. Laidlaw, who resigned from the House of Lords in 2010, did not respond to a request for comment through his foundation.

Irvine Laidlaw in 2004.
Irvine Laidlaw in 2004. Photo: Rex Features

Based in the UK, Candy owns a number of properties in London through Guernsey-based companies. He donated at least £270,000 to the Conservatives. His £160m Knightsbridge flat owned by a Guernsey company is one of the most expensive in London and is currently up for sale. It is understood that all companies are UK resident for corporate tax purposes, will pay UK tax on any profits and that the structure does not reduce any inheritance tax liability or other taxes.

Amjad Bseisu, chief executive of oil company EnQuest, who has donated more than £450,000 to the Conservatives over the past 10 years, owns a flat in central London through a British Virgin Islands company.

Amjad Bsuisu.
Amjad Bsuisu. Photo: PA Images/Alamy

Bseisu said: “I certify that I am the ultimate beneficial owner of Solway Enterprises Ltd. [a BVI company]by obtaining a controlling stake. SEL pays the same UK corporation tax on rental income and any future capital gains as any UK company. There is no present or future UK tax advantage that I or SEL enjoy because SEL is not a UK company. I can confirm that during my beneficial ownership period the SEL has been consistent with all UK tax reporting.”

Former Solicitor General of India Harish Salwe owns an apartment in Mayfair through a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Salve said that the overseas ownership structure was created before he bought the property by its previous owner and that it would be subject to inheritance tax. Salv donated £23,000 to the Conservatives in 2022.

“As a tax lawyer, I sincerely welcome the government’s decision to introduce a foreign property registry,” Salve said. “It is not only in the interest of the Treasury, but also in the interest of transparency that ownership of the property is disclosed and the name of the ultimate beneficial owner is made public.”

One former donor, venture capitalist John Moulton, who donated over £300,000 between 2004 and 2011, owns property in central London through Guernsey-based companies. Moulton said he kept them in Guernsey because he lives there and described the register as “just another paper job for me”. He said it did not reduce his tax liability and added: “I think I’m actually potentially worse off than UK resident owners on some taxes.”

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