Posts Tagged ‘British Virgin Islands’

Books on Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean Archaeology

December 30, 2017

A few months ago I got through the post the 2017 archaeology catalogue for Eurospan University Presses. Amongst some of the fascinating books listed were several on the archaeology of Black communities in America and the Caribbean. As you’ll see, they’re at prices well beyond what ordinary readers can afford. They’re really available only to the rich and academic libraries. If you’ve got access to one near you, then I recommend you try to borrow it from there. Some universities do lend to members of the public in the summer holidays when most of the students have gone home. It might also be possible to get it on interlibrary loan, although this can also mean a long wait and isn’t cheap either. The last time I enquired about it at Bristol, I was told the price was £5 per book. Which means that if you want to borrow more than one, it can become very expensive very quickly. Dam’ Tories and their cuts! I don’t know, but it may also be that some of these books may be available in PDF form over the Net at a cheaper rate. This isn’t mentioned in the catalogue, but it might be so. Alternatively, you could see if there are secondhand copies on Amazon. On the other hand, it might be worth waiting to see if a paperback edition comes out, which may be cheaper.

Here are the books I found interesting, and the blurbs for them in the catalogue.

Archaeologies of African American Life in the Upper Mid-Atlantic, edited by Michael J. Gall & Richard F. Veit
9780817319656 Hardback £74.50

Provides insights into the archaeology and cultural history of African-American life from a collection of sites in the northeastern US. This volume explores the archaeology of African-American life and cultures in the Upper Mid-Atlantic region, suing sites dating from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries.

University of Alabama Press.

Before the Pioneers: Indians, Settlers, Slaves and the Founding of Miami, Andre F. Krank, 9780813054513, hardback £18.50

Formed seemingly out of steel, glass, and concrete with millions of residents from around the globe, Miami has ancient roots that can be hard to imagine today. This work takes readers back through forgotten eras to the stories of the people who shaped the land along the Miami River long before most modern histories of the city begin.

University of Florida Press.

Honoring Ancestors in Sacred Space: The Archaeology of an Eighteenth Century African Bahamian Cemetery, Grace Turner, 9781683400202, hardback £79.50.

Throughout life, black Africans in the Bahamas possessed material items of various degrees of importance to them and within their culture. St. Matthews was a cemetery in Nassau at the water’s edge – or sometimes slightly below. This project emerged from archaeological excavations at this site to identify and recover materials associated with the interned before the area was completely redeveloped.

University Press of Florida.

The Rosewood Massacre: An archaeology and History of Intersectional Violence, Edward Gonzalez Tennant. 9780813056784, £84.95.

Investigates the 1923 massacre that devastated the predominantly African American community of Rosewood, Florida. The author draws on cutting edge GIS technology, census data, artefacts from excavations, and archaeological theory to explore the local circumstances and broader socio-political power structures that led to the massacre.

University Press of Florida.

Simplicity, Equality and Slavery: An Archaeology of Quakerism in the British Virgin Islands, 1740-1780, John M. Chenoweth, 9781683400110 hardback, £79.50.

Inspired by the Quaker ideals of simplicity, equality, and peace, a group of White planters formed a community in the British Virgin Islands during the eighteenth century. Here, the author examines how the community navigated the contradictions of Quakerism and plantation ownership.

University Press of Florida.

These books sound very interesting. There have been a lot of research into the homes and communities of Black Americans over the past couple of decades. They’ve been excavated in New York, and also the slave communities owned by the Founding Fathers, like Benjamin Franklin. In the case of excavating cemeteries, it’s obviously a particularly sensitive area, and the archaeologists involved have obviously had to be particularly careful in their negotiations of the host Black community and the surviving relatives of the deceased. As you should when excavating any human remains.

From what I gather from reading elsewhere, cemeteries and burial grounds are of particular importance in Afro-Caribbean culture, where it’s associated not only with personal heritage and family history and identity but also occupation of the land.

I remember correctly, the 1923 Rosewood massacre was White supremacist pogrom against the Black community in Rosewood, their politicians and their White supporters and allies. This was before McCarthyism, when the American Left was still very strong, and the Republican party the more left-wing of the two main political parties. The town’s mayor was Black, and the town council included Socialists. Even the Republicans issued a statement condemning the treatment of the poor, the corrupt corporate politics keeping them there, and declaring healthcare and education a right. Obviously the Conservatives and the Klan really couldn’t tolerate that, and stirred up resentment until it boiled over into organised violence.

As for the Quaker plantation in the British Virgin Islands, the Quakers very early denounced and condemned slavery as fundamentally opposed to their principles. John Fox, the sect’s founder, denounced and by their laws no member could own slaves. Nevertheless, the acceptance of slavery was so deeply ingrained in European society, that its rejection was not easy for many to accept. And although they were condemned from owning or dealing in slaves, some Quakers did make their cash through supplying the slave ships. If you want to know more about the Quakers, their ideals in this period, then I recommend you read David Dabydeen’s history of the Quakers in the 17th and 18th centuries, Sugar and Slaves.

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Vox Political on the Tories’ Plan to Turn Education into a Tax Avoidance Scam

April 25, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political posted up a very ominous piece reporting the tax affairs of one of the academy chains. Bellevue Education, which runs a number of academies in the south east, appears in the Panama Papers as an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands. In other words, it’s a tax avoider. Mike draws the obvious conclusion from this that as David Cameron and Nicky Morgan want all schools to become academies, and thus tax avoidance schemes for the big business fat cats running them.

The Tory plan to turn education into a tax avoidance scam

I don’t doubt for a single moment that Mike’s right, and this fact has very grave implications for the quality of the service these academy chains will provide, and their stability as businesses.

One of the points George Monbiot makes about the PFI initiative for hospitals in his book, Captive State, is that the overheads in running hospitals are so large, that the corporations approached to fund and run them can only be persuaded to do so through massively inflating their costs to the British taxpayer, and by cutting the service delivered to the public. It’s why, thanks to the Private Finance Initiative, Britain now has fewer hospitals than it actually needs, which have been more expensive to build than if the government simply raised the money through the usual sources of bonds, loans and taxation. It’s also why the PFI hospitals are smaller.

The hedge funds that were responsible for running so many of the care homes, that collapsed and were prosecuted for the extremely poor treatment of their elderly or disabled residents, were also involved in massive tax avoidance scams. There was some kind of financial trick involved, which made these homes run at a technical loss. This meant huge profits for the hedge funds running them, but it also meant that they were extremely vulnerable financially. The result was the slew of scandals, which got into the page of the Private Eye’s ‘In the Back’ column, which reported on the extremely dubious financial arrangements behind them.

This new revelation that Bellevue Education is based off-shore, suggests that the private education chains running the academies similarly find it difficult to run them at a profit without indulging in tax avoidance at a massive level. Mike reports that academies perform poorly compared to ordinary LEA schools. This bears out the conclusion that for-profit firms cannot effectively run services, like schools and hospitals, that are properly the responsibility of the state. Like the PFI hospitals, it shows that the private investment in schools is more expensive to the British taxpayer, in terms of tax money lost to the government, the burden of which is then passed on to the rest of us. And it also suggests that as businesses, they are also vulnerable and likely to collapse at the merest drop in profits. And then, no doubt, the fat cat bankers behind them will be squealing for the British taxpayer to bail them out.

Private Eye on Daily Mail’s Lord Rothermere Purchases Parking Space with Offshore Company

March 15, 2016

Private Eye in their issue for 20th December 2014-8th January 2015 published an article on how Lord Rothermere’s tax dodging had gone so far that he had actually used an offshore company to buy a parking space in London.

Offshore Ownership
Why Lord Rothermere Is Parking Mad

Daily Mail proprietor Lord Rothermere, also known as Jonathan Harmsworth, appears to go to extraordinary lengths to keep his millions out of the taxman’s clutches. The Eye has discovered that he has even bought a parking space near his Kensington office through an offshore company.

Land Registry data shows that in February 2009 a company called Harmsworth Holdings Ltd bought a 125-year lease on space number 76 at the exclusive underground private car park under York House, just across Kensington High Street from the Mail’s Derry Street offices. The company is registered in St Lucia, 300 miles off the South American coast.

Why Rothermere would need this bizarre arrangement is not clear – he would not comment on the matter to the Eye – but buying assets through offshore companies controlled by family trusts carries big tax advantages for “non-domiciled” taxpayers like Milord Rothermere (see Eyes passim).

The company owning the parking space is considered an overseas asset and remains outside the scope of a “non-dom’s” future inheritance tax bill. And if the parking space was bought out of the ample income received by the Bermudian company and offshore trusts through which Rothermere controls Daily and General Trust plc, there would be no “remittance” to the UK to generate an income tax bill.

The same St. Lucian company also owns land and one further, unidentified property in the Kensington area. Yet another Rothermere company, Harmsworth Trust Co (PTC) Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands, owns 10 English properties, most of them near the Rothermeres’ neo-Palladian pile in 200-acre Ferne Park in Wiltshire.

(Most non-doms, incidentally, would lose the inheritance tax break once they lived 17 out of 20 years in the UK. But Rothermere can thank his father for choosing France for his tax exile and thus bequeathing it as his country of domicile, since a longstanding agreement between the UK, and France happily overrides this rule.)

Rothermere isn’t alone in using an offshore company to own 12 square metres of tarmac and a precise 1.9 metres of airspace under York House. Fifteen further spaces – each said to be “large enough to accommodate a Rolls Royce”-have been bought in the same way: five through companies incorporated in the BVI, three in the Isle of Man, two in Liberia, one each in Jersey and Guernsey and a couple of unknown origin.

Rothermere’s purchase was for an unquantified amount, although other spaces bought around the same time went for £100,000, the top price being £149,500. Investors in what is described as “London’s first boutique car park” seem well-pleased. “What a delight,” says one. “Having suffered for many years with the aggravation of trying to find a parking space at night, let alone the frustrated nanny on the school run [sic]. This car park has solved all my problems.”

I’m astonished both at how expensive parking space in the rich areas of London are – £100,000 and over! – and how no purchase seems to be too small or too petty for the Rothermeres and people like them to purchase through offshore trusts. Though if they’re paying up to £150,000 for a parking space, you can see why they’d try a tax dodge. Do they do their weekly shopping at Harrod’s or wherever through offshore accounts? And their bespoke tailored suits – are they owned by them, or similarly the property of a company in the British Virgin Islands or St. Lucia!

Private Eye on Lord Rothermere’s Ownership of London Property in Offshore Accounts

March 11, 2016

A few years ago, Private Eye ran a piece about how Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail, was using his non-dom status to avoid paying British tax, despite the fact that he is very much resident in this country. I found this piece in Private Eye’s issue for 13th-20th December 2013 about how Rothermere was also using offshore accounts to avoid paying tax on prime pieces of real estate he’d purchased in London.

Lord Rothermere

A Capital Idea

“Offshore investors avoiding millions in tax spent £7 billion on London’s lavish properties in last year sending market prices soaring.” So screamed a Daily Mail headline a year ago. What the newspaper didn’t report was that a chunk of the “offshore” purchases of prime London property were accounted for by its very own proprietor, Lord Rothermere.

Home for Rothermere, his wife Claudia and their five children is Ferne House, a neo-Palladian mansion in 224 acres of grounds in Wiltshire. But the family also has a London house on Addison Road, Holland Park, a ten-minute walk up Kensington High Street from the Mail’s Derry Street headquarters. This is no pokey pied-a-terre either. property website Zoopla, part of Rothermere’s Daily Mail and General Trust plc group, values it at £21.75m.

The London house was bought in 2001. This was couple of years after the Rothermeres had bought Ferne Park and commissioned the mansion from architect Quinlan Terry – not by the Rothermeres themselves, but by a British Virgin Islands company called West Land Assets Ltd. for £9.5m with no mortgage required against the property.

A 2003 application for planning permission for changes to the property, including an extension for a swimming pool, made in the names “Lord and Lady Rothermere” indicates that this was an offshore vehicle for the Rothermeres. The following year, the house was sold again for £8.5m with the new owners now given on Land Registry documents as Lord and Lady Rothermere themselves, subject to charge, almost certainly relating to a loan, from private bankers Hoare & Co. A clause in the title document suggest the Rothermere’s did not become owners outright but as trustees of a trust. Such are the undemanding requirements of British property registration and the secrecy of trusts that its location and beneficiaries are secret.

The Rothermere’s affairs appear to be run largely by accountant David Nelson of Dixon Wilson, who replaced Lord Rothermere on title documents for the Addison Road house – and thus, it appears, as a trustee alongside Lady Rothermere – in September 2010.

More recently what is almost certainly the trust behind the property was (unusually) named when a footnote in a DMGT financial results announcement last month mentioned that in the previous year the company “disposed [sic] certain assets for consideration of £0.1 million to The Addison Road Settlement whose trustees are Lady Rothermere, wife of the company’s chairman and David Nelson, a non-executive director of the company”.

The beancounter Nelson thus has feet firmly in both the Rothermere family camp and the publicly traded DMGT, where he sits on the board’s remuneration, audit and investment committees. On his own firm Dixon Wilson’s website he boasts of “considerable experience and expertise in helping wealthy families, and their businesses, and landed estates concerning tax … with a particular emphasis on the UK aspects of international tax, offshore trusts and the UK resident who has retained a foreign domicile”. This explains his usefulness to Lord Rothermere who, despite being born and bred in Britain and permanently occupying some swathes of British soil, claims “domicile” in, er, France (exposed in the Eye four years ago).

This privileged tax position, under which offshore income is taxed only when remitted to the UK, along with the inheritance tax and stamp duty advantages, goes a long way to explain the trust and offshore companies. While complex Bermuda/BVI/Geneva channels for Rothermere’s income, revealed in Eye 1231 and 1351, transform it into offshore income, valuable property can allow money back in tax-free as loans secured against the bricks and mortar rather than as taxable income.

In January 2011, four months after Nelson appeared as trustee of the Addison Road settlement, a new lender appeared in offshore banker RBC Europe. It is reported in Land Registry records as being “under an obligation to make further advances” against the security of the £21m townhouse, which would facilitate such a scheme.

Rothermere’s other tax-efficient offshore property deals include the 2005 purchase of Ferne Park Cottage on the Wiltshire estate for £640,000 in the name of the same BVI company, Harmsworth Trust Co Ltd, that acts as trustee to the trusts holding Rothermere’s jersey investment vehicle, Rothermere Investments Ltd. Since October last year it has been subject to a charge in favour of Barclays Private Bank and Trust Co in Jersey which is also set to “make further advances”.

In December 2011 yet another trust run by Claudia Rothermere and David Nelson, “WM Trust”, bought The Garden House, also on the Ferne Park estate, for £3m, although documents suggest it entered the Rothermere property empire around the same time as Ferne Park Cottage a decade earlier. Ferne House and Ferne Park themselves, worth upwards of £50m, are registered in Lord and Lady Rothermere’s names but again this appears to be as trustees of a trust and “care of Dixon Wilson”, ie David Nelson. There is no mortgage against this property, but when in 2006 Rothermere added new east and west wings to Ferne House he did use £50m worth of DMGT shares held by his Bermuda vehicle Rothermere Continuation Ltd as security for a loan (without properly declaring the matter to the stock market).

Thus, with the help of an accountant who specialises in “offshore trusts and the UK resident who has retained a foreign domicile”, the proprietor of the newspaper that judges who does and doesn’t love Britain also enjoys one of its richest and most tax-avoiding property portfolios.

It’s probably worth adding here that the xenophobic Daily Mail probably shared UKIP’s belief that London housing is scarce because of all those immigrants from eastern Europe. The reality is that it’s scarce, because rich investors are pushing the prices beyond ordinary people’s ability to buy them. And this shows that Rothermere and his wife are two of them.