Lord Ashcroft has denied any involvement with Mossack Fonseca, the company at the heart of the “Panama Papers”.
Described as an “unprecedented” leak, the papers constitute some 11.5 million files from the fourth biggest offshore law firm in the world, which the Guardian says “show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes”.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists alleges that Belize Corporation Services, a subsidiary of Ashcroft’s BCB Holdings, “began using Mossack Fonseca to provide shell corporations for its clients in 2006 when Ashcroft was in the U.K House of Lords”.
In 2006, Belize Bank approached Mossack Fonseca about “doing some business together.” According to an email sent in November 2013, Belize Bank International established a new company whose owners were the Panama firm’s founders, Jurgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca and partner Christopher Zollinger. The new firm was called M.F. & Co. (Belize) Limited and cooperated with BCS in creating companies and acting as registered agents in Belize.
Writing on behalf of the former Tory deputy chairman and Conservative peer, Lord Ashcroft’s spokesperson Alan Kilkenny told the ICIJ that it is “entirely false” that Lord Ashcroft had “either personally, or through a corporate entity in some way connected to him . . . ‘partnered’ or ‘done business’ with Mossack Foncesa”. He added:
“These allegations are completely untrue, and the events as described never happened. The records upon which you claim to rely for those allegations either do not exist or have been falsified”
Ashcroft has previously faced claims of legal tax avoidance after the Guardian reported allegations that he had used offshore holdings in Belize to avoid paying VAT on opinion polls he commissioned for the Conservative party.
Using offshore companies is not illegal in itself, and there are legitimate uses for offshore companies.