With its two swimming pools, organic farm and private forests, it may have seemed the ideal place to escape for a prime minister hoping to get away from it all.
But the huge Marbella fortune where Boris Johnson has stayed this week could be a difficult recollection of the questions he faced and managed to avoid following the revelations of Pandora documents last week.
Documents viewed by the Guardian show that the luxury villa, donated by Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith, is held by a dark offshore structure based on numerous tax havens.
Newspapers suggest the minister and his family may have owned the property through a Maltese company owned by companies in the Turks and Caicos Islands and administered by a Swiss-based asset planning firm.
Goldsmith declined to answer questions about the arrangements, though his spokesman did not issue a statement.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Goldsmith, who has stated his interest in the secluded villa. But Johnson’s feast on a property that appears to be held through a chain of companies in secret jurisdictions will probably raise questions about his commitment to reforms designed to introduce transparency in offshore property ownership in the UK .
The documents also raise questions about whether Goldsmith, a senior government minister appointed by Johnson to the House of Lords in 2019, holds valuable assets and generates offshore revenue.
Last week, the Pandora Papers sharply facilitated the use of offshore jurisdictions by senior Conservative party figures and donors. Responding to revelations about how wealthy politicians and individuals around the world rely on offshore paradises to harbor their wealth, said the chancellor, Rishi Sunak the use of offshore companies to evade taxes and conceal assets from the authorities is a global problem.
In recent days, Johnson has faced criticism for his vacation time between the energy crisis and the supply chain. It is also less than three weeks before he hosts the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.
On Monday, a Downing Street spokesman defended Johnson’s decision to take a vacation this week, but declined to confirm who was financing the stay at the Goldsmiths estate near Marbella. The spokesman also declined to discuss whether there was a potential conflict of interest for Johnson to accept a party from a peer whom he ennobled and made a minister.
The jewelers’ fortune has previously been under scrutiny, first in 2009 when as a future MP he admitted to previously claiming uninhabited tax status. In 2016, he revealed that he had made and paid taxes for more than $ 10 million since becoming an MP in 2010, much of which came from a family trust created by his billionaire father.
Ever since he became a peer, Goldsmith has declared to the House of Lords the register of interests he holds an interest in a property in the Andaluca region of Spain through a family will. The register suggests that a Spanish company that owns the property is in turn owned by a holding company, Bora Investments.
Goldsmith has not denied that Bora Investments is a Maltese company founded in 2007, which until at least 2016 was owned by two undercover candidate entities in Turks and Caicos, where companies do not pay corporate taxes.
Documents, shared with the Guardian by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), suggest that Bora Investments has used two separate BVI companies as appointed directors.
These two BVI companies were operated by an exclusive asset planning firm which also operated a BVI company co-owned by Goldsmiths brother Ben Goldsmith and Conservative party co-chairman Ben Elliot.
Last week, the Guardian revealed how the two men used BVI company, E&G Productions, to invest in a 2010 documentary about the West India cricket team, which indirectly benefited from 121,000 tax credits in the UK . According to public revelations, Zac Goldsmith was one of the film investors.
The documents suggest that E&G Productions used the same two companies as directors appointed as Bora Investments, while the same employees at the Swiss-based wealth consulting firm Isle of Man signed documents for both companies.
A Goldsmiths spokesman did not answer questions about whether his family had used an offshore facility to maintain a property in Spain to avoid taxes in the country.
Oscar Abeti, senior partner at the Marbella-based law firm BCP, said there were many reasons to choose to hold Spanish property in an offshore facility of this type, but taxation is normally one of the main reasons.
He said that in recent years tax authorities in Spain have begun to demand more information about foreign-owned property, while special taxes have made property ownership more expensive by using offshore vehicles.
In October 2018, Goldsmith and his family appear to have incorporated a new company in Spain to keep the property on the hill on the Costa del Sol. The peer interest register suggests that this company is controlled by Bora Investments.
In a statement, Goldsmiths spokesman said he had followed the ministerial interest process set out in the ministerial code.
She added: His interests have been reviewed by the Cabinet Office and the independent adviser to the prime ministers on ministerial interests. Other relevant interests are accurately reported in accordance with the House of Lords code of conduct.
She did not answer specific questions as to whether Johnson was reimbursing Goldsmith for using the property or why the colleague did not declare any rental income from the property, which is traded online for rent, reportedly up to 25,000 a week.
On Tuesday, after a parliamentary report revealed that governments treating the coronavirus pandemic early was one of the worst public health failures in UK history, The Mirror posted a photo which they said he showed to the prime minister at the villa by painting a photograph.
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