Friday, 11 January 2008
Stand and Deliver Peter Hain
The slimey low life crook and political highwayman Peter Hain, the Tweedledum to Gerry Gables Tweededumber, has once again 'forgotten' to file accounts for over 100 hundred thousand pounds donated to him during his leadership challenge.
The donations came from businessmen, including £10,000 from Mike Cuddy, who runs a building contractors in Wales, and also from unions, with £10,000 being donated by the GMB and £2,500 by UCAT.
Half the cash given to the Work and Pensions Secretary was donated via a virtually unknown think-tank created just five months before the contest, fuelling suspicions that it was used as a go-between to shield a series of "hidden" donors.
They included Isaac Kaye, 78, who is linked to South Africa's pro-apartheid National Party and was embroiled in a police investigation into a suspected £400million fraud against the NHS.
Mr Hain was forced to submit a file of the donations to the watchdog the Electoral Commission, which is investigating the funds.
He had previously revealed £83,000 in gifts for his failed deputy leadership bid, meaning his total campaign funds were more than £186,000, far outstripping those of his five rivals.
Mr Kaye donated nearly £15,000 through the Progressive Policies Forum think-tank in September and November last year.
The deputy leadership contest had ended but the minister was struggling to meet a shortfall in funds.
Mr Kaye was chairman of Norton Healthcare, one of seven firms investigated over allegations that they fixed the price of popular drugs to reap vast profits at huge cost to the taxpayer.
The multi-millionaire stepped down from the company in 2003 and, in 2006, it agreed to pay the NHS £13.5million in an out-of-court settlement over the scandal.
The firm is set to stand trial in autumn this year on criminal charges of conspiracy to defraud in relation to the pricing and supply of drugs.
The Progressive Policies Forum took a total of £50,000 from four individuals between July and November.
Records at Companies House show it was created in December 2006 at the same address in central London as solicitors McEwen Parkinson. There is no other record of the PPF's work.
A spokesman for the PPF said: "We were supportive of Peter Hain's deputy leadership campaign, and we believe that had Peter been elected, he would have advanced progressive policies. Funds provided to PPF were properly paid to Hain4Labour and were reportable donations. PPF understands these reports have now been made."
Others who used the PPF to donate money include Willie Nagel, a diamond broker and former Tory supporter. He gave an interest-free loan of £25,000 and a gift of £5,000.
The link between Isaac Kaye and Peter Hain is an interesting one. It appears that the once communist revolutionary and supporter of ANC and ARM terrorism is now financial buddies with one of the people that were running South Africa at the time of Mr. Hains activities.
This is an odd link, and it may well be worth investigating the links between Isaac Kaye and Mr. Hapin a little deeper.
Isaac Kaye, the Labour donor at the helm of a drug company raided by police investigating an alleged £400m rip-off of the NHS, converted to Blairism after supporting South Africa's Afrikaner-led National party.
The seventysomething multi-millionaire moved to Britain in 1985, took Irish citizenship and salted away a small fortune in a Channel Islands trust fund from a US business deal.
Kaye is the chairman of IVAX Pharmaceuticals UK, the health service's biggest supplier of generic drugs and one of six firms suspected of being involved in a price fixing cartel to push up prices charged to the NHS. IVAX denies any wrongdoing and the Labour party has declined to comment on its relationship with Kaye.
Now living in Mayfair, he made no secret of his admiration for Tony Blair by spending £5,000 in 1997 and 1998 on tickets for Labour gala dinners and donating £100,000 to the party in 1999. He also gave £10,000 to the London mayoral campaign of Frank Dobson, the former Labour health secretary.
Kaye was was caught up in a "gifts for influence" scandal in South Africa during the early 1980s amid claims that doctors were being rewarded with everything from cars and TVs to swimming pool equipment and chandeliers for prescribing drugs made by his then firm. He denied any impropriety, saying the giving of presents was not an inducement but an appreciation. Six years ago his company in Britain was censured for offering mountain bikes, Marks & Spencer vouchers and other "unacceptable inducements" to doctors and chemists.
Kaye sold his first company in Britain, Harris, to the Florida-based IVAX Corpin 1990 and it was renamed Norton Healthcare before switching to Ivax Pharmaceuticals UK. Kaye, according to Osler, made £23m from the deal and has a £12m stake in the parent company.
Norton Healthcare - the largest manufacturer of generic drugs for the NHS - has reached an out of court settlement with the Department of Health over claims it participated in an alleged price-fixing cartel defrauding the health service of more than £150m.
The company agreed to pay the NHS £13.5m for claims relating to generic drug price fixing, as has been widely reported.
But interestingly, while all this was going on, Norton was headed by a man linked to both the governing party in apartheid South Africa and yes, you've guessed it, Labour Party plc:
‘Isaac Kaye, chairman of pharmaceuticals manufacturer Norton Healthcare, has switched his political allegiance away from the parties that ruled that country under apartheid and towards New Labour. Presumably that must be considered progress of sorts.
‘An Irish citizen entitled to vote in the UK, Kaye first came to Britain from South Africa in 1985, becoming the major shareholder in a company called Harris Pharmaceuticals. Five years later Harris was sold to Ivax Corporation – a Florida-based holding company with subsidiaries involved in the research, development, manufacture and marketing of both branded and generic pharmaceuticals worldwide – and renamed Norton.
'Kaye did rather well out of all this. The £23m he got from the sale now resides in a Channel Islands trust fund. Moreover, Kaye got to stay on as Norton’s chairman, and was also appointed deputy chief executive of Ivax. His stake in the parent company is thought to be worth a further £12m.
‘Norton is now the number one supplier of generic medicines in Britain. It is also one of six companies raided by police investigating an alleged £400m fraud on the NHS in April 2002. Claims of overcharging, and possibly even price-fixing collusion, are at the centre of the probe.’
‘Kaye was a high-value donor to New Labour in 1997, 1998 and 1999. In the latter year, his support reportedly totalled £100,000. He also backed Frank Dobson’s ill-fated bid to be elected mayor of London in 2000 with a cheque for £10,000. Dobson is, of course, a former Secretary of State for Health who ordered NHS doctors to use generics wherever possible.
‘Generic medicines are essentially cheaper substitutes for expensive products developed by the big pharmaceutical multinationals. But Norton has in recent years consistently squeezed the highest possible profits out of the NHS, frequently hiking the price of its products to just below those of the copyright equivalents.
‘In 1998, a pack of Norton thyroxine tablets – a treatment for goitre and thyroid cancer – cost the health service £6.84. The following year, the price rose to £44.89, negating much of the savings that would otherwise have been made. Such tactics saw Ivax’s profits rise over 70% in 2000, despite a 12% decline in turnover.
‘Other of Norton’s business activities in Britain have given cause for concern. In 1996, for instance, it was censured by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry for offering rather enticing incentives, ranging from Marks & Spencer vouchers to mountain bikes, to high street chemists that ordered its products.
‘Meanwhile, Kaye has refused to recognise trade unions, arguing that they are ‘not in line with company philosophy’.17 In May 2000, a Kentucky judge ruled that Norton unlawfully violated the rights of its nurses at one of its US hospitals, by barring them from union activity in their own time. This was held to be in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
‘Before he became a chequebook-wielding New Labourite, Kaye enjoyed friendly ties with politicians back in South Africa, where he spent much of his life. Between 1977 and 1982, he served on the board of South African Druggists, a major supplier to the country’s healthcare market. Company documents from the period show that SA Druggists subsidiaries offered lavish gifts to hospital administrators and other medical figures.
‘These included cars, payment of credit card and garage bills, swimming pools and trips to Europe and the Far East. The comparison with the tactics later adopted in the UK is obvious.
‘SA Druggists executives were also seconded to assist the election efforts of the Afrikaaner-led National Party. Kaye is not likely personally to have supported the racist party.
‘But South Africa’s erstwhile National Party minister for health Dr Lapa Munnik – an apartheid stalwart who threatened to close Catholic schools if they dared to admit non-white pupils – claims that Kaye offered him the use of cars to transport supporters to the polls at a crucial 1979 by-election. Another National Party candidate remembers Kaye as a ‘substantial’ backer.
‘These claims are contested by Kaye’s lawyer, who insists that the only
South African party his client supported financially was the liberal opposition Progressive Party. Even so, it was admitted that Kaye did back one National Party candidate on grounds of childhood friendship.
‘Evidence gathered by the police during the April raids is being considered by the Serious Fraud Office. There is no suggestion that Kaye was personally complicit in or even aware of any malpractices. But if it does emerge that Norton has a case to answer, this could certainly prove a political news story worth watching.’
LABOUR Party officials are bracing themselves for yet another possible controversy over party funding, after a raid by the Serious Fraud Office on a pharmaceutical company headed by one of their major donors.
Isaac Kaye, chairman of Norton Healthcare, gave £100,000 to the Labour Party in 1999, and more than £10,000 over the previous two years. He also gave £10,000 towards Frank Dobson's campaign to secure the Labour Party nomination for the post of mayor of London.
His company was one of six major drug suppliers raided in one of the largest fraud investigations ever undertaken. Police are investigating allegations that the NHS was defrauded of up to £400 million through overcharging and price fixing in four years up to December 2000. The investigation is expected to take months to complete, and the SFO has stressed that no arrests are imminent.
advertisementDavid Osler, author of a forthcoming book, Labour Party plc: New Labour as a Party of Business, to be published in September, said yesterday: "There is no suggestion that Kaye was personally complicit in or even aware of any alleged malpractices, but if it does emerge that Norton has a case to answer, Kaye's donations to Labour could certainly prove a political news story worth watching."
Two months ago the Government was hit by the embarrassing revelation that Tony Blair had intervened personally to help the businessman Lakshmi Mittal in the purchase of the privatised Romanian steel industry, shortly after Mr Mittal had donated £125,000 to the Labour Party.
Revelations like these are greatly resented by senior figures in the Labour Party, who say that the information would never have been made public but for legislation which Labour introduced to make political parties declare the sources of their major donations.
Mr Kaye has attracted political controversy before, when it was alleged that he had been a financial backer of the National Party politicians in South Africa during the apartheid years.
Mr Kaye, who left South Africa in 1985, said through his lawyer that he had "disliked" apartheid and had never given financial backing to the National Party, though he had backed one National Party election candidate, John Erasmus, who was a childhood friend.
Now an Irish citizen, he has lived in London for more than 10 years, and has been a registered voter since 1991. He was a major shareholder in Harris Pharmaceuticals, which was sold to a Florida-based company, Ivax, in 1990, and renamed Norton Healthcare.
The company was criticised in 1996 by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry for offering mountain bikes and Marks and Spencer vouchers to doctors and chemists as inducements to stock the company's products. Norton pointed out that its promotion did not break the law.
Norton Healthcare is among the world's largest suppliers of "generic" drugs - cheaper substitutes for expensive products which have been developed by the multi-national pharmaceutical companies.
While Frank Dobson was Health Secretary, he encouraged the use of generic drugs wherever possible, to save the NHS money. The other suppliers targeted by the SFO were Generics UK, Kent Pharmaceuticals, Regent-GM Laboratories, Goldshield Group and Ranbaxy UK.
Rich people are costing Britain millions in lost tax by not registering their houses in their own names, according to land registry records and independent accountants' estimates. The wealthy individuals who appear to be enjoying the country's choicest property virtually tax-free, thanks to their exploitation of legal loopholes include a number of Labour party donors, as well as the former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher, an influential Saudi prince and Mohamed Al Fayed, the controversial owner of Harrods and Fulham football club.
Whether they possess luxury penthouses in Mayfair or mansions in the Cotswolds, many of their expensive homes are registered as belonging to offshore trusts with concealed beneficiaries.
A land registry review last year called on the lord chancellor to outlaw such behaviour as an abuse, saying "it flies in the face of the principle [that] ownership ... of all properties should be in the public domain". But Lord Irvine, the lord chancellor, who is responsible for the land registry, has so far not acted.
Specialist accountants told the Guardian such offshore registration was a classic method of escaping some or all of three kinds of heavy tax which ordinary homeowners must pay - inheritance tax, stamp duty and capital gains tax.
The computer tycoon David Potter, for example, owns not only his London house but also Rush Manor, a lavish home counties retreat by the Thames.
His fortune, despite recent collapses in the value of internet enterprises, is calculated at £98m.
We estimate that he may be avoiding liability on Rush Manor for his heirs of inheritance tax of around £600,000; liability of £80,000 in stamp duty on a sale; and capital gains tax on the profit he would make if he sold the mansion, originally purchased in 1989, of at least £160,000.
However, Mr Potter was one of the few rich people willing to speak to us on the subject.
When we asked why Rush Manor was not registered as owned by him but by the Ropanom Nominee Corporation, care of a London address which proved to be that of his Psion company lawyers, Paisners, he told us it was "complicated".
He said he personally paid tens of millions of pounds in taxes. But when we asked if his home ownership was registered offshore to avoid tax, he replied: "No comment".
Mr Potter, a Labour favourite and £90,000 donor who gave a 1999 lecture at Downing Street on wealth creation, also uses a second controversial tax loophole by claiming to be "non-domiciled". He has lived in Britain for more than 30 years, but was born in South Africa. As the Guardian recently revealed in a series by Nick Davies on Hans Rausing, Britain's richest man, many wealthy people can live here virtually tax-free by claiming that their true home lies elsewhere.
In the eyes of the Inland Revenue, they therefore have "non-domicile status". Although Mr Potter will pay tax on his UK income from Psion, he does not need to pay tax on income and assets he keeps abroad.
Land registry records show the same pattern in the case of a number of high-profile recent donors to the Labour party.
· a Panama company owning the north London house of pharmaceuticals tycoon Tony Tabatznik;
· an offshore company listed as owning the£9m summer palace occupied by Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal;
· an offshore trust holding the Grosvenor Square flat of the drug manufacturer Isaac Kaye;
· a Jersey trust company listed as owning the Hampstead home of businessman Uri David.
Another donor, financier and philanthropist, Christopher Ondaatje, has given £2m to the Labour party. For 17 years his second house has been Glenthorne, a coastal mansion in north Devon.
Yet although he has written lyrically about his feeling of "coming home" from Canada by buying it, the 93-acre estate is in fact in the name of the offshore Exmoor Ltd.
All these men claim non-domicile status. None wanted to comment on the allegation that they are avoiding tax liabilities on their UK homes.
Mr Mittal's spokeswoman said it was "private ... there is nothing illegal". Mr Ondaatje contacted the Labour party press office and then declined to comment. Mr Kaye's spokeswoman said his home was owned by a company "which is owned by a family trust". Mr David's secretary said: "It is private." Neither Mr Tabatznik nor his accountants had anything to say.
The ability to escape ordinary people's property taxes is not confined to Labour supporters.
Lady Thatcher registers ownership of her £3m London house not in the Thatchers' own name, but in the name of an anonymous offshore company.
Her Chester Square home acquired in 1991 is listed as owned by Bakeland Property Ltd on a 64-year lease. We have established that this is a Jersey company.
Its shares are held by two Jersey individuals who are the Thatcher family's financial advisers, Leonard Day and Hugh Thurston. They are acting as nominees for a trust with concealed beneficiaries, accountants say.
The former prime minister's office refuses to explain why she does not apparently own her own house. Leonard Day in Jersey said: "No one's going to tell you about that."
Other Conservative supporters using offshore ownerships include the former Tory MP for Torbay, Rupert Allason.
Recently described by a judge as "one of the most dishonest witnesses" he had ever seen, over his financial affairs, Mr Allason's £1m second home at Aldworth is in a picturesque English village on the edge of the Berkshire downs. It avoids tax, having been owned for the last 22 years by a Panama company, Polarpark Enterprises.
It has now emerged that the company is in turn owned by a trust whose beneficiaries in Bermuda are Mr Allason's children. (His wife was Bermudian and her foreign domicile appears to make this scheme legal). Mr Allason says: "Don't associate me with setting this up for tax purposes just because my ex-wife happens to be Bermudian. I don't know anything about the tax position."
A previous donor to the Conservative party is Wafic Said, a former operator of a kebab restaurant who made millions in commissions on a 1985 British Aerospace arms deal to sell Tornado fighters to the Saudi royal family. He has a £9m apartment in Eaton Square, one of London's most expensive addresses. But builders' cranes also tower over the Cotswolds countryside where he is erecting a Palladian mansion on the site of Tusmore House, a 3,000-acre estate he bought in 1987.
It is not registered as owned by him but by Tusmore Estates SA, an offshore company. Mr Said, too, claims non-domicile status to avoid paying tax on assets held abroad. His spokesman said: "It has been placed in a trust to make the arrangements simple for the family."
Mr Said's chief Saudi patron, Prince Bandar, has an even more palatial Cotswolds mansion a few miles away, together with a large farming estate and the entire village of Glympton. He is an absentee landlord, with the ownership registered offshore, in the name of a Jersey company listed in turn as owned by a bank official and an accountant.
Prince Bandar's estate manager explained that behind this lay a common scheme - a discretionary trust whose beneficiaries were members of the prince's family. He had been advised this would
enable them to keep the property after his death. "Since he is not resident in this country, no liability for tax arises under this structure."
One of the former Conservative government's more lavish supporters was Mohamed Al Fayed. As well as donating £250,000 in the 1980s, he also famously gave Tory MPs Tim Smith and Neil Hamilton cash in brown envelopes.
But his Surrey mansion, Barrow Green Court, and his Scottish castle at Balnagown, are not owned by him. They are registered to Bocardo, a company in the tax haven of Liechtenstein whose shares are believed to be held in turn at Banque Gonet in Switzerland and controlled by Mr Fayed and his two brothers.
His spokesman, Chester Stern, said it was "fairly common" for the ownership of homes to be put in the name of a company. "It is entirely legal. There are a number of reasons for doing it, not
necessarily to do with tax."
But when asked if Mr Fayed had done it for reasons other than tax, Mr Stern refused to comment."I am not prepared to discuss the reasons ... It is a confidential matter."
Giving rich people with foreign assets special tax breaks is sometimes defended as being of benefit to Britain. But one former economic adviser to Jersey and an expert on offshore tax havens,
John Christensen, told us: "Judging from my experience of dealing with individuals who engage in extensive tax avoidance exercises, the argument that to try to enforce UK tax measures on them will
lead to their withdrawing investments does not hold water."
Last June, the land registry published a report by Andrew Edwards, an expert on offshore tax havens, who called for the concealment loophole to be blocked.
He said compulsory truthful declarations of beneficial ownership of houses would "be invaluable for law enforcement, regulatory and tax authorities".
FULL DECLARATION OF DONATIONS
Date donation banked Donation amount declared Donor
04.06.07 £10,000 Mike Cuddy
06.06.07 £2,000 Patrick Head
06.06.07 £1,500 TM Communications
12.06.07 £5,000 Bill Bottriell
14.06.07 £5,000 David Goldstone
14.06.07 £5,000 Robert Davies
14.06.07 £2,500 UCATT
Status: trade union
25.06.07 £5,000 Ronnie Harris
09.07.07 £5,000 Willie Nagel*
09.07.07 £1,990 Christopher Campbell*
08.08.07 £5,000 Steve Morgan*
04.09.07 £10,000 GMB
Status: trade union
13.09.07 £10,000 Isaac Kaye*
10.10.07 £25,000 (interest free loan) Willie Nagel*
19.11.07 £4,623.75 Isaac Kaye*
23.04.07 £1,346 (in kind) HRA Ltd
June 2007 £4,197 (in kind) GMB
Status: trade union
Willie Nagel, a diamond dealer, is one of the 17 figures who both donated and lent money to Peter Hain. According to the Financial Times, the pair encountered each other when Hain was in the Foreign Office, when they worked together on developing a certificate system to stem the flow of conflict diamonds.
The FT has also been told that when Mr Nagel was approached to donate to Mr Hain's campaign, he wanted to keep his identity secret.
"Last year, Mr Nagel, who is 83, was approached by John Underwood, a former Labour communications director, to give money to Mr Hain’s campaign. Mr Nagel declined because he did not wish his name to be made public. Mr Underwood later asked Mr Nagel to donate to Progressive Policies Forum, a think-tank pursuing worthwhile policy causes. He gave £5,000 and made a three-month loan of £25,000. He was not told the money was going to Mr Hain."
Progressive Policies Forum, incidentally, was set up in December 2006, has no website and lists a solicitor as its only named director and last night nobody in Westminster seems to have heard of. Nagel is understood to have requested that Mr Hain repay a £25,000 interest free loan this weekend