Posts Tagged ‘Lord Rothermere’

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.

Private Eye from 2005 on Nazi Antics and History at the Daily Mail

March 2, 2016

The Daily Mail is, of course, notorious for the support its founder, Lord Rothermere, gave to Hitler, the Nazis, and their British counterparts, the British Union of Fascists, in the 1930s. Private Eye published a couple of piece reminding them about this shameful period in the newspaper’s history, and the tasteless antics of its staff in dressing up in Nazi uniforms at a party way back in their issue for the 21st January – 3rd February 2005. This was the time when Prince Harry had caused widespread outrage by going to a party dressed in Nazi uniform.

A Mail editorial lambasted the “crashing insensitivity” of Prince Harry, who “thought it a wonderful jape to turn up at that fancy-dress party in a Wehrmacht uniform, complete with Nazi armband… He was making a damned fool of himself and giving intolerable insult to others”. Only some utterly ignorance of history, it claimed, would wear such an outfit for fun.

This surprised older Mail hands who recall the “leaving party” held in 1992 for Sir David English, when he was kicked upstairs to be deputy chairman so Paul Dacre could become editor. Since the Mail had recently published the Goebbels Diaries, party organiser Rod Gilchrist thought it a wonderful jape to go for a fancy-dress evening with a Nazi theme. Dozens of Mail executives and hacks duly turned up in Wehrmacht uniforms. Gilchrist also hired a TV crew to record it all for posterity.

Gilchrist is now deputy editor of the Mail on Sunday, and presumably still has a copy of the film. Might this explain why he is unsackable?

“The tragedy is that Harry is typical of a generation ignorant of our history”, declared the Daily Mail the day of the young prince was pictured partying in a Nazi Uniform.

While Andrew Roberts lectured readers on the “level of ignorance in society about virtually every aspect of the Nazis”, Gordon Rayner dug deep into the past to highlight “the touchy subject of the royal family’s links to the Nazis”.

“Adolf Hitler wore a swastika armband when he met and shook hands with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1937,” he pointed out at the head of a list of “fawning images from the Hitler years that the House of Windsor would rather forget”.

No doubt it was only lack of space that stopped Rayner pointing out that Hitler was wearing the same garb when he met and shook hands with the Daily Mail’s founder, Lord Rothermere, grandfather of the paper’s current proprietor, on the first of many occasions in 1934.

Rothermere, who attended several Nazi rallies, assured Mail readers that Herr Hitler was “a perfect gentleman” and wrote that under his rule Germany was “beyond all doubt the best governed nation in Europe today”, largely because of Hitler’s actions in “freeing” the country from the “Israelites of international attachment who had insinuated themselves into key positions in the German administrative machine.”

He also insisted that his papers back the fascist cause in Britain, nailing his colours to the mast with the January 1934 headline “HURRAH FOR THE BLACKSHIRTS”. Perhaps the Mail, as a service to young readers who wish to learn more about their history, could reprint some of their coverage from the time.

I realise I’ve blogged about this recently, and I recommend those interested to go over to Tom Pride’s blog and search there. When the Mail a few years ago took it into its head to attack Ralph Milliband as ‘the man who hated Britain’, Mr Pride dug out a few of the pages from the Daily Mail, containing Rothermere’s columns raving about how wonderful the Crappy Corporal was. So if you have a look at them, you can read them just as they appeared at the time.

Blogging and the Tory Victory

May 12, 2015

As you probably noticed, I had a short break from blogging over the past few days. The reason’s simple: the Tory victory left me so bitterly angry and depressed, that quite simply I couldn’t face writing about it. And I was afraid that if I did try to put fingers to keyboard, anything I did write would simply be an angry stream of coarse invective and obscenity against an obscene, exploitative and murderous government that had been returned yet again by a majority of the people of England and Wales.

Bristol was one of the places where the Labour candidates won. It’s a local victory, that has led to three new Labour MPs, all women entering parliament. But this seemed to be little comfort to the broader political picture. There were a few further, minor compensations in that the Lib Dems saw themselves virtually wiped out, reduced to about eight MPs, while the Fuhrage over in Thanet signally failed to get elected.

I was up visiting friends in Cheltenham Friday as the news of the Tories’ victory began to sink in. One of them showed me the tweets he was getting over the mobile from others, equally disgusted with the decision of the British electorate. Many of them were of the type asking if they should now go to Canada, or New Zealand, or Norway and Denmark – anywhere, in short, where the political elites still had some respect for the people in whose name they govern, and have humane, sensible welfare policies and are dead set on dismantling their state health service for personal profit and that of the multinationals.

One person on Twitter simply said that it was the English voting once again out of spite and cruelty towards the poor and unemployed. Another wrote simply ‘England – Burn it down’.

I talked to one of the local small businessmen, who was also depressed and disgusted at the Tory victory. He stated that in the coming years, he’d probably stop giving to overseas aid charities, because there would be real poverty and starvation here in Britain, which equally deserved his money and attention.

It was an opinion shared by one of my friends, who took immediate action. He went out and spent a tenner of his benefit money on food to give to the local food bank, ready for the next influx of the poor and genuinely starving, thrown off benefit to save corporate vultures like Murdoch, Rothermere, Lebedev and the Barclay twins from the indignity of having to pay tax like the ‘little people’.

The Tories definitely will not have it their own way over the next few years. They’ve got a wafer thin majority of about three or five. That’s about the same as Labour had during their minority government in the mid-1970s. My friend pointed out that there are about 23 – 30 bye-elections every parliamentary turn, so this majority could easily vanish. It won’t be easy. Things certainly will get harder, much harder, for the poor, the sick, disabled and unemployed. But he felt that it would prevent them from doing the really horrific stuff, like selling off the health service.

Let’s hope so. In the meantime, let’s keep the pressure up every step of the way. It’s been pointed out that the Tories owe their victory to only 20 per cent of the vote. Which is an argument for proportional representation. We need to fight them constantly if we are ever to keep them from destroying any more lives, and preserve anything of the welfare state.

Artist in Clevedon Commemorates Victims of Austerity

May 7, 2015

I didn’t catch this, but there was a piece on the news yesterday about an artist in Clevedon, who is using their art to commemorate the victims of Cameron’s and Clegg’s austerity. They’ve made figures on the beach of the individual victims, complete with their story, and are burning them.

It’s very much a piece of Conceptual Art, like the installations and works of Tracy Emin, Damian Hurst et al. It most reminds me of a piece I saw by three local artists in Cheltenham was back in the early part of this century. One of them was a piece marking the victims of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland. it consisted of a series of their portraits, which had been covered in molten lead.

This piece shows the same process of creative construction and destruction, to protest the deaths of real individuals.

As Britain goes to the polls today, it’s vital that these people be remembered. The mendacious government that wilfully took their lives just to give tax cuts to the poor, to the applause of corrupt media barons like the Rothermeres, the Barclays, and Murdoch must not be returned.

We can’t bring them back, but we can stop the Tories and Lib Dems carrying on the massacre.

Vote them out. Now.

Vox Political on Daily Heil’s Latest Ad Hominem Attack on Miliband

April 11, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has posted this piece, Has ‘Red Ed’ Become ‘Red Hot Ed’ Now? in response to the Daily Mail’s article trying to present the Labour leader as some kind of sinister Don Juan, or callous Lothario preying on women’s affections. The article begins

Things have come to a pretty pass when this qualifies as news.

It seems the Conservative Party’s campaign strategy has come grinding to a halt, based as it was on claiming that Ed Miliband cannot run the UK.

First we were told he’s weird-looking, especially when eating a bacon sandwich – but it turns out the people of this country aren’t all that bothered, as long as he can do the job.

Then we were told that he couldn’t do the job – but by then the Labour Party was already publishing one policy proposal after another which showed that he emphatically could.

Finally we were told that he’s not a nice man; he stabbed his brother in the back to get the Labour leadership (we’ve been hearing that since 2010 and it hasn’t become any truer in all that time) and he has had (gasp) a love life!

Mike suggests that the real reason the Mail has decided to go after Ed personally is because for the first time, Cameron’s approval rating has dipped below Miliband’s.

That’s right. The British public have decided that they believe the better man for the job is the geeky nerdish bloke, who eats a bacon sandwich weirdly, rather than the true-blue, titled aristo. No wonder the Mail published this latest story. It probably made Lord Rothermere choke on his champagne and lobster thermidor last night.

Mike’s also produced this handy meme showing the real differences in policy between Ed and Cameron. If you care about rising poverty and don’t want to see the health service sold off, then Miliband is very much the man to vote for.

Cameron stands for more poverty, the selling off of the NHS, and the restoration of the feudal order with his fellow aristos at the top. Including Lord Rothermere. Which is why the paper likes him, and is so appalled at the thought of Miliband getting into No. 10.

Miliband Cameron Meme

Private Eye on Daily Mail’s Hypocrisy over Tax Avoidance

April 10, 2015

Ed Miliband this week announced he was to abolish the non-dom tax bracket, that allows businessmen and others to avoid paying taxes in this country on the grounds they are living abroad. One of the most notorious beneficiaries of this arrangement has been Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail. Rothermere inherited his non-dom status from his father, who lived for most of his life in France. The current Lord Rothermere, however, shows every evidence of living in Britain, even building what amounts to his own stately home.

I put up Private Eye’s article on how Rothermere was using his non-dom status to avoid paying tax on his millions. And on Wednesday, the day that Miliband announced his policy, it was by far and away the most popular article on this blog.

It’s almost needless to say that Miliband’s policy was much less popular with the right-wing press, who all harrumphed about how this was going to harm Britain by driving all the non-domiciled rich titans of industry and Lord Rothermere away. Yet Rothermere’s mighty organ, the Daily Mail, has also shown the immense hypocrisy it’s known for by attacking other companies for avoiding UK tax.

In 2010 it launched a campaign against Kraft foods, which Private Eye reported and criticised in a brief article in its issue for the 23rd December.

“If you won’t pay our taxes, we won’t eat your cheese, Kraft.” So runs the Mail on Sunday’s campaign against the US firm that has taken over Cadbury and is transferring ownership of some of Britain’s favourite brands to Switzerland to avoid tax.

Another internationally tax-efficient company of course is the Daily Mail and General Trust, owned through a Bermudan company and a series of offshore trusts so that the principal beneficiary, the “non-domiciled” Lord Rothermere, can avoid tax on his income from the group.

“If you won’t pay our taxes, we won’t buy your paper, Rother5s”, runs nobody’s campaign at all…

The Mail was absolutely right in that Kraft should pay taxes in Britain for profits raised through its British firms. As should the Daily Mail, who, after running this campaign, should keep resolutely silent about Miliband’s campaign to end the non-dom tax breaks.

Meme: Daily Mail Makes Britain Stupid

January 30, 2015

I also found this meme on the Slatukip Facebook page on an article critiquing another Daily Mail scare story about immigration. The poster pointed out that the Mail’s story contained thirteen lies. This meme tells the truth about Lord Rothermere’s mighty organ.

Mail Brain Robbers

Vox Political: Mail Lies about Benefit Claimants Again?

January 28, 2015

Tory Lies Drawing

Mike over at Vox Political has the story about the Daily Mail possibly fabricating another piece in order to smear benefit claimants. The Heil claims to have exposed one claimant, Kamram Kam, as a fitness fanatic, who makes no secret that he does not intend to find a job. Except that Mr Kam is an actor, who has appeared in nine films. the article’s Daily Mail caught stirring up hate against benefit claimants with fake story? and it’s athttp://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/01/28/daily-mail-caught-stirring-up-hate-against-benefit-claimants-with-fake-story/.

This is, of course, another piece of massive hypocrisy coming from Lord Rothermere’s mighty organ, after the Lord himself claimed nom dom status in order to save on taxes that would be owed when building his mighty mansion at Ferne Park in Wiltshire. Never mind the unemployed, Jonathan Harmsworth’s the real scrounger. And as he’s a nom dom, I strongly recommend him for deportation.

From Private Eye: Lord Rothermere’s Non-Dom Tax Scam

January 27, 2015

Ferne House

Ferne House: Lord Rothermere’s home, except when it comes to paying tax

In my last post, I reblogged Tom Pride’s article demanding that on Holocaust memorial day, Lord Rothermere should apologise for his newspaper’s shameful anti-Semitic past. The Daily Mail was notoriously the newspaper that shouted ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ in praise of Oswald Mosley’s stormtroopers in the British Union of Fascists. It also ran articles demanding an end to Jewish immigration, and even praising Hitler himself.

The Rothermere’s tradition of extreme right-wing views and demonization of the poorest and most victimised members of society continues today, with its constant campaigns and vilification against asylum seekers, immigrants, the unemployed and the disabled. As Mr Pride and Johnny Void have documented on their blogs, the Daily Mail has even stooped so low as to claim those reduced to using food banks aren’t really starving, but are simply scroungers.

Not only is this factually wrong, it is a piece of astonishing hypocrisy coming from the multi-millionaire Lord Rothermere. Rothermere is not only stinking rich himself, but Private Eye also revealed in 2009 that he was claiming non-dom status in order to avoid paying tax on his stately home, Ferne House. The story was in their issue for 6th – 19th March, and ran:

At Home with Lord Rothermere
Our Top Tax Man and the Non-Dom Press Baron

If an Englishman’s home is his castle, a sprawling neo-Palladian pile in the rolling Wiltshire countryside might be expected to bring with it full British tax status for the lord of the manor. But not, it seems, when the Englishman in question is an immensely wealthy and powerful press baron who enjoys the protection of the country’s top taxman.

Back in 1999 the young chairman of the Daily Mail and General Trust, the 4th Viscount Rothermere, aka Jonathan Harmsworth, bought a 220-acre estate called Ferne Park as home for his family, then comprising wife Claudia and two children under six.

By 2001 a new Ferne House had been built in the grounds to a £40m design by renowned Palladian-style architect Quinlan Terry. As the latest generation of the Rothermore dynasty expanded to four children by 2004, the Harmsworths had outgrown Terry’s first effort and in August 2006, local council records show, obtained planning permission for “new east and west wings”.

Despite a reported personal fortune of around £800m, Viscount Rothermere turned to his bankers for loans. Last month, under a regulatory amnesty following the well-publicised failure of Carphone Warehouse boss and Tory backer David Ross to declare his use of shares as security for personal loans, Rothermere came clean on his own similar arrangements. It emerged that in December 2006 he had pledged 8m DMGT shares he owned through a trust and DMGT’s Bermudan parent company Rothermere Continuation Ltd. At the time these were worth more than £50m, though DMGT’s announcement of the arrangement stated that this greatly exceeded the value of the loans. It was, however, “small when compared to the Viscount Rothermere’s net worth”.

Borrowing money rather using some of his offshore wealth had one clear benefit for Rothermere, an advantage he owed to his famous father Vere Harmsworth, the 3rd Viscount Rothermere. By living as a tax exile in Paris for most of his life, the 3rd Viscount had become “non-domiciled” for British tax purposes. And just like his hereditary title, this status passed – as a “domicile of origin” – Jonathan when he was born in 1967. A DMGT spokesman would only say the 4th Viscount’s domicile status was “a private matter”.

The principal tax break for a “non-dom” is that overseas income is only taxable when “remitted” to Britain. For Jonathan Harmsworth this has proved immensely valuable, as the hundreds of millions of pounds in DMGT dividends channelled over the years through Bermudan-registered Rothermere Continuation Ltd into trust of which he and his family are beneficiaries have magically become overseas income. Had this money been brought into the UK to pay for the new home in Wiltshire, it would have been taxable; the loan from the bank, on the other hand, would not.

But being a “non-dom” should not be so easy. The archaic status, used in British tax law since the Napoleonic wars, has to be sustained throughout a non-dom’s life by an overriding commitment to another country. This must be demonstrated by such choices as the location of the family home, upbringing of children and a person’s intended final resting place. As Harmsworth looks to have made a permanent family seat on the Wiltshire-Dorset borders, and he and his wife have reportedly become leading figures on the county scene, his non-dom status looks precarious to say the least.

These developments, coup0led with a strong court of appeal win for HM Revenue and Customs on a domicile case last year, proving the importance of where a person is committed to live with his family, unsurprisingly prompted an official re-think of the viscount’s status. Inspectors were busy investigating his media empire anyway, under “Project Mersey”, after the group had earnest itself a place on HMRC’s “high risk corporates” list by undertaking a number of tax avoidance schemes.

According to sources close to the review, the decision of HMRC’s Special Civil Investigation’s section was to launch a full-scale inquiry with a view to withdrawing Harmsworth’s non-dom status, if necessary through the courts. Late last year the plan was approved by HMRC’s solicitors and a high-level strategy board comprising the directors of the department’s Large Business Service, its Anti-Avoidance Group and its central policy unit.

But then the investigation was blocked by HMRC deputy chairman Dave Hartnett, who regularly steps into tax investigations and boasted to a parliamentary committee a year ago of his “board-to-board” engagement with big business.

When Austin Mitchell MP then asked Hartnett “Do [large companies] get a better deal when you get involved?” Hartnett responded “I sincerely hope not.” Viscount Rothermere appears to have got superior treatment, though, as Hartnett pressured HMRC officials to find a “technical” reason for not pursuing the investigation.

Why the HMRC boss should be so keen to let Viscount Rothermere off the hook, saving him several millions of pounds in tax annually, at the expense of the little people, remains a mystery. There is no evidence that the Mail’s political clout – or its editor and director Paul Dacre’s close relationship with Gordon Brown – played a part. Nor is there any indication that the connection between DGMT and HMRC director-general Melanie Dawes, whose remit covers the Large Business Service, had any bearing on the decision. Dawes, a career Treasury civil servant said by some to have been drafted into HMRC to keep an eye on the taxmen, just happens to be married to Benedict Brogan, who until last month was political editor of the Daily Mail.

PS: The Eye and others have long pointed ot the numbers of non-dom Labour party friends and donors in seeking to explain the government’s failure to scrap a tax break it once vehemently opposed (last year it settled on a pin-prick £30k annual charge for non-dom status). Perhaps we should have been looking elsewhere in the political forest too.

In other words, there were strong personal and professional links between Brown, senior treasury officials and Daily Mail, so it’s no surprise whatever Rothermere got away with his scam. It’s another example of the suspicious cronyism, which so effectively discredited the last vestiges of New Labour with Brown’s government.

As for Rothermere, I’m not just astonished at the man’s brazen hypocrisy in falsely claiming non-dom status for himself while his organ lambasts the indigent poor for scrounging. I’m also amazed at the way this government closed, or planned to close, one of rights of immigrants working in the UK. The government decided that they wanted to stop welfare payments going from immigrant workers in this country to support their children or dependents in their countries of origin. I can see little difference between an immigrant doing this, and Rothermere falsely claiming to be resident in France, so he can buy a family home here in Britain. If anything, Rothermere’s scam is worse, if only because he is well able to pay for the house himself many times over already. The immigrant workers’ dependents, however, are likely to be poor people in a poor country, and so have far more of a genuine need for the money.