|The HQ of Kleinwort Benson Bank Limited, 14 St George Street, London.|
In another major blow to international personal tax evasion, the names of
over 20,000 wealthy offshore clients of a
private bank in the Jersey island tax haven, have been leaked to the
Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The individuals include donors to the British Conservative Party, which has
proposed restrictions on tax havens, and some of the most prominent people in British
The ICIJ has exclusively allowed
Guardian newspaper to analyse the names of the clients of the Jersey, Channel Islands branch of Kleinwort Benson,
the London firm which provides private banking and wealth management services to
international private clients, families, business owners.
In the interests of transparency, ICIJ said The Guardian will publish some of their findings over the coming days, detailing
the offshore links of political donors; international celebrities; judges;
sportsmen; businessmen; and British aristocrats.
Names range James
Dyson, Britain's most famous inventor, to Hollywood actor Mel
Gibson. Today The
Guardian identifies party donors
who over the years have paid more than £8m to the Conservative Party.
ICIJ says one of the recipients of donations is
Andrea Leadsom, Britain’s newly-promoted financial services minister, who has run into a “Cash for Office” allegation after she told The
Guardian she was unaware of the
size of large offshore donations to the Conservatives made by her own family.
The ICIJ has previously
internal records of offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands.
said on Thursday: “We make this information available not because what we found is illegal
but because we think most people would think it unfair.
Tax havens allow some
people to play by different rules.”
The group says that
UK chancellor, announced
in April: “If you’re evading tax offshore, there is no safe haven and we
will find you.”
But The Guardian findings
contradict this picture of illegality. Many Jersey loopholes used by wealthy
Britons to pass on their fortunes appear from The
Guardian’s research to have been
Both the ruling Conservatives and to a lesser extent the Labour opposition party
have benefited by political donations from such individuals.
There is no published register of trusts or offshore holdings, and the rich
appear to have often been able discreetly to avoid taxes, particularly
inheritance tax, in ways too expensive for smaller people to use.
Kleinwort Benson Investors is an established
institutional asset manager with headquarters in Dublin.
Wikipedia says that the earliest known Kleinwort to go into banking was 24-year-old Hinrich
Kleinwort who, in 1786, set up a partnership with Otto Mueller in Holstein to
finance trade with England. In the very same year, Robert Benson joined with
William Rathbone IV of the existing house of William Rathbone & Co. to form
Rathbone & Benson, a Liverpool business trading mainly with America. Over the
course of the 19th century, the Benson family grew its wealth through railway
finance in Britain, Europe and America. The Kleinworts established a successful
trading business in Cuba, profiting from the expansion of the H. Upmann and Sons
The Kleinworts and the Bensons merged their firms in 1961 to form Kleinwort
Benson. Kleinwort Benson then became one of the first merchant banks to
establish itself in the Channel Islands, having set up offices in Jersey in 1962
and Guernsey in 1963.