UK tax committee to invite OTs to appear

  • Seeking answers: John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw

Ministers from the Bermuda Government are to be asked to give evidence before British MPs as part of a probe into tax avoidance and evasion.

The sub-committee of the Treasury Select Committee launched its investigation in the wake of the Panama and Paradise Papers leaks.

John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw and chairman of the sub-committee, wrote in The Guardian newspaper that he wanted to “hear from the dependencies and territories themselves”.

Mr Mann said Britain should “regard it as a matter of national shame that the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories that fly our flag give shelter to the wealth of the world’s financial elite”.

He pointed out that half of the 240,000 shell companies used by Mossack Fonseca to help the wealthy dodge tax were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

Mr Mann said the BVI was “far from alone” in looking the other way “as the world’s financial elite used its legal structures to hide their wealth from prying eyes”.

He added: “Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are on the EU greylist of uncooperative tax jurisdictions.

“If they do not co-operate further, they may be placed on the blacklist.”

Mr Mann said he would be chairing a “Treasury sub-committee inquiry into avoidance and evasion, aiming to unpick the failures of policy and resourcing that have allowed the tax base to be undermined”.

The Paradise Papers — secret files from Bermudian-founded law firm Appleby — were released in June by journalists looking into the offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies.

The Paradise Papers were unveiled just over a year after 11 million documents were leaked from secretive Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca which sparked international investigations and fresh vows to crack down on tax cheats. British parliamentary committees cannot force individuals resident outside the UK to appear before them.

A series of hearings on tax abuse, the practices of major accountancy firms, individual tax avoiders and evaders and the use of the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories are to take place over the next six months.

The Guardian added that the “sub-committee will also investigate the UK’s network of Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, which have refused to implement new standards on transparency for offshore company owners despite pressure from campaigners and MPs”.

A government spokeswoman said Bermuda had not been asked to attend the sub-committee hearings.