Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Is this what democray is made of?

Political donations are a problem, the world over. We know. Maybe it's unfair to single any particular party out (but we're going to do so in this blog, anyway.) This time, it's Britain's Conservative Party. No laws were broken, apparently (and the newspaper's lawyers surely insisted on that one, in holy fear of Britain's libel laws) but reading the article makes you kind of sick to the stomach.

We're interested, unsurprisingly, in the offshore angle in this recent Observer article. Here are a couple of excerpts:

"Big Ben Films' immediate parent company is Boldergate Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands. Boldergate in turn gives its ultimate parent company as Business Management Services Nominees Ltd, registered in another tax haven, the Antilles. The company's sole director is Johan Eliasch, a Swedish-born businessman who lives in London. He is reputed to be worth £355m and openly supports the Tories.

Michael Hintze, formerly a star trader at the investment bank Goldman Sachs, lent the Tories £2.5m in May 2005 through a Jersey-based trust called Morain Investments. A Liechtenstein trust, the Medlina Foundation, lent the Tories £950,000 in 2004 via the bequest of a deceased supporter of the party.
. . .
A donation of £50,000 was given in June this year by Sleepwell Hotels UK, which is owned by a trust in the Isle of Man. Latest accounts from 2006 show that it has not traded. Denham Eke, managing director of the trust, said the business was now trading and this would be reflected in future accounts."

You need to read the whole article to get a sense of this particular hole in British democracy. And this doesn't even take into account the shenanigans of Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative Party's top fundraiser, from his hidey-hole in sleazy Belize. The current Labour government is entirely captured by the world of secrecy jurisdictions. Could its political opponents, the Conservatives, ever be impartial on the offshore issue?


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