Pandora papers: Tony Blair exposed for dodging stamp duty

Tony and Cherie Blair saved around £312,000 in stamp duty in 2017 by acquiring a London office building owned by an offshore company.

The Blairs bought the £6.5m building in Marylebone by purchasing British Virgin Islands (BVI) company Romanstone International Limited, rather than the property directly.

Romanstone was controlled by the family of politician Bahrain’s minister for industry, commerce and tourism, HE Zayed bin Rashid Alzayani.

While the ex-Prime Minister’s actions aren’t illegal, the deal highlights a loophole enabling wealthy property owners to avoid paying stamp duty.

The inner workings of the deal have been revealed by the Pandora papers, a huge data leak of 11.9 million files exposing how the wealthy hide their assets from being taxed

After the purchase the Blairs shut down the offshore firm, moving the property into a UK company they own called Harcourt Ventures.

Cherie Blair now runs a law firm and women’s foundation from the four-storey building.

Tony and Cherie Blair have responded to the leak via a spokeswoman.

The media were told: “The vendor was an offshore company. The Blairs had nothing whatsoever to do with the original company nor those behind it.

“The vendor sold the company not the property – again a decision the Blairs had nothing to with.

“Since the purchase was of a company no buyer would have had to pay UK stamp duty on that transaction.

“However, because the Blairs then repatriated the company and brought it onshore, they are liable for capital gains and other taxes on the resale of the property which will significantly exceed any stamp duty.

“For the record, the Blairs pay full tax on all their earnings. And have never used offshore schemes either to hide transactions or avoid tax.”

Cherie Blair has also spoken out, saying Harcourt Ventures was formed to bring Romanstone and its building under UK tax and regulatory rules.

She added: “It is not unusual for a commercial office building to be held in a corporate vehicle or for vendors of such property not to want to dispose of the property separately.”

The Pandora papers were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington, which shared the documents with global media outlets like the BBC and The Guardian.

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