Paradise Papers: Bono and Mrs Brown’s Boys stars in offshore tax haven claims

U2 frontman Bono, Pic Lisa Ferguson
U2 frontman Bono, Pic Lisa Ferguson
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Stars of an award-winning BBC comedy programme have been named alongside The Queen and Bono in the leaked Paradise papers.

Last night’s disclosure of 13.4 million documents reportedly ties major companies and political figures to secretive overseas arrangements.

Political figures and celebrities are said to feature in the leaked papers, with stars of hit BBC comedy Mrs Brown’s Boys among the latest named.

Paddy Houlihan, who plays Dermot in the show, Fiona O’Carroll, who plays Maria and Martin Delany who stars as Trevor, made use of a scheme that used trusts based in Mauritius and a series of loans and consultancy payments to reduce the tax they paid in the UK and Ireland, according to reports.

Also among those said to be named in the papers are former Tory treasurer Lord Ashcroft and US president Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, who is reportedly linked to a Russian firm.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a public inquiry into tax avoidance to urgently restore public confidence in the tax system.

But Theresa May has refused to commit to a formal probe or to introducing a public register of who owns offshore companies and trusts in British tax havens, saying only that people should “pay the tax that is due”.

Asked whether she would insist on an inquiry and public registers, the Prime Minister told the CBI: “We have seen more revenues coming to HMRC over the last few years - since 2010 £160 billion extra that they have been able to raise.

READ MORE: Queen urged to apologise if Paradise Papers tax allegations correct

“But we do work, there’s already work that’s been done to ensure that we see greater transparency in our dependencies and British overseas territories and we continue to work with them.

“HMRC is already able to see more information about the ownership of shell companies, for example, so that they can ensure that people are paying their tax.

“We want people to pay the tax that is due.”

Downing Street said Mrs May did not have any direct offshore investments and her assets were held in a blind trust, in line with normal practice for ministers.

“There is a well-established set of procedures and mechanisms,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

Beyond the UK, the White House was hit by suggestions that it has ties to Russia.

Mr Ross is allegedly shown by the papers to have money in a shipping company which deals with Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law.

But he told reporters during a trade visit to London it would be “incorrect” to characterise Navigator’s relationship with Sibur, a gas company co-owned by Kirill Shamalov, who is married to Mr Putin’s daughter, as a partnership of any kind.

READ MORE: Private estate of the Queen invests millions in tax havens

Hundreds of individuals and companies reportedly have had their overseas investments exposed by the files, which are also said to reveal that major global companies have exploited offshore schemes to avoid tax.

First obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, the documents stem from two offshore service providers and company registries from 19 tax havens, according to reports.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists oversaw the project.

The papers claim U2 frontman Bono used a company based in low-tax Malta to buy part of a shopping mall in Lithuania.

Reports in the national press suggest that the Paradise Papers reveal that the singer was an investor in Maltese company Nude Estates, which bought the Ausra shopping center in 2007.

Bono’s spokeswoman said he was a “passive minority investor in Nude Estates Malta Ltd., a company that was legally registered in Malta until it was voluntarily wound up in 2015.”

The Irish band, well known for its poverty-fighting efforts, has faced past criticism over its tax arrangements.

U2 was heavily criticized in 2006 for moving its corporate base from Ireland to the Netherlands, where royalties on music incur virtually no tax.

In 2011 protesters inflated a giant balloon reading “U Pay Tax 2?” during U2’s set at the Glastonbury Festival.

The Ausra shopping centre is located in the town of Utena, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius. The 3,700 square-metre (40,000 square-foot) mall was built in 2006 and sold to unknown foreign investors in 2007.

READ MORE: Hard-pressed Scots workers ‘will struggle to cope with tax rise’

Its management has told reporters they were not aware Bono’s involvement in the property’s ownership.

The latest release includes claims that the Queen has £10 million of her personal fortune invested in an offshore tax haven. There is no suggestion that those involved acted illegally.

The Duchy of Lancaster, the private estate of the Queen, was found to have millions of pounds invested in offshore arrangements.

Around £10 million from the Queen’s private fund was paid into funds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda between 2004 and 2005, according to reports.

A spokesman for the estate said: “We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds.

“All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate.”