London: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday said individuals and businesses should "pay the tax that is due" in response to Paradise Papers, a fresh leak of documents laying bare the financial affairs of the global elite including Queen Elizabeth II. May refused to commit to introducing a public register of who own offshore companies and trusts in British tax havens or opening a public inquiry into tax avoidance, the Guardian reported. May was responding to the disclosure of 13.4 million documents on Sunday which reportedly tie major companies and political figures to secretive overseas arrangements.
The Paradise Papers represent the biggest data leak since the Panama Papers release last year and have been analysed by almost 100 media organisations. The world-wide probe was carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). First obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, the revelations involve two companies, Bermuda's Appleby and Singapore's Asiaciti. The leaks revealed that Queen Elizabeth II had 10 million pounds of her personal fortune invested in an offshore tax haven.
The documents said that the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides the Queen with a private income, holds funds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, the Independent reported. This money is divested into accounts which are sheltered from UK tax, which then makes investment decisions on their behalf. The papers revealed the Duchy made a small investment in the controversial rent-to-buy furniture firm BrightHouse, which was ordered to pay back 14.8 million pounds to its customers last week after the Financial Conduct Authority said it had not acted as a "responsible leader". The Duchy said its holdings in BrightHouse now equate to just over 3,000 pounds, the BBC reported.
There is no suggestion that the Duchy did anything illegal or that the Queen had any knowledge of what her money was being used for, the report said. The sum is just a fraction of her estimated 500 million pound private fortune. Labour MP Margaret Hodge, the former chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, said she was "furious" with those who advise the Queen for bringing her "reputation into disrepute". She told the BBC: "Monarchy is one of the most trusted, loved and respected institutions in Britain and it symbolises that integrity of Britain in the world and to see it sullied by these sort of activities it outrageous." Anti-monarchy campaign group Republic said the Queen needed to account for the culture of financial secrecy surrounding the royal family.
Republic CEO Graham Smith said: "The Queen is responsible for her investments, she should have instructed her advisers to ensure her money was invested ethically, and that there was no tax dodging involved." Asked whether she (May) would insist on public registers for British tax havens and a public inquiry into aggressive tax avoidance, May said in London: "We have been continuing the work that David Cameron started and he started it not just for the UK but on an international stage as well, and that's important." The Labour Party said a public inquiry was needed to restore public confidence in the tax system. (IANS)