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- The man formerly in charge of anti-money laundering has been named in the so-called “Paradise Papers” leak of documents stolen from an offshore law firm. Lord Sassoon served as President of the UK’s Financial Action Task Force between 2007 and 2008, which combats money laundering and terrorist financing. Sassoon was one beneficiary of a family trust worth millions and registered to an offshore secrecy jurisdiction. He says the UK tax authorities were aware of this, and he has not benefited from the trust in years.
LONDON – The man formerly in charge of anti-money laundering in the UK has been named in the Paradise Papers leak as a beneficiary of an offshore trust.
According to documents found in the International Consortium of Journalists’ (ICIJ) Paradise Papers database, James Meyers Sassoon, who served as President of the UK’s Financial Action Task Force between 2007 and 2008, is the beneficiary of a Cayman Island trust fund called DCR Herschorn Settlement.
On Sunday, more than 13 million documents that detail the complex financial arrangements of some of the world’s richest individuals were leaked. The documents, dubbed the “Paradise Papers,” were stolen from offshore law firm Appleby in a cyber attack last year, and shared with the ICIJ.
As President of the Task Force, Sassoon was in charge of combating money laundering and terrorist financing. He has also been a defender of legal tax avoidance (as opposed to illegal evasion), having said in 2010 that minimizing tax payments “is perfectly reasonable.“
Sassoon, now a member of the House of Lords, was also the Treasury commercial secretary from 2010 to 2013, and was responsible for overseeing economic productivity and industrial strategy.
The fund was established by Sassoon’s grandmother several decades ago, and originally operated under Bahamian law, (the Bahamas are also considered an offshore secrecy jurisdiction). Documents show the trust owns Orchard Limited, an investment holding company registered in the Bahamas, which held $124 million in 2002, according to financial statements. By 2007 it was holding $236 million, and the same year distributed $8 million to beneficiaries, records show.
By 2002, the trust had employed “Big Four” accountancy firm Deloitte to advise it on tax matters.
In 2008, documents show, a fax from Sassoon’s father to an Appleby administrator showed Deloitte warned that UK taxpayers could be liable for UK taxes on more than $14 million of the funds if they were withdrawn.
Sassoon told the ICIJ the trust fund had been established by his grandmother 60 years ago for multiple family beneficiaries, including non-UK residents. He said it also included non-UK assets not liable for UK taxes. Given this, and that the trust had been established offshore to begin with, Sassoon told the ICIJ there was “no question of assets having been ‘moved offshore.'”
He said UK tax authorities were aware of the settlement and its management company. “Where UK domiciled individuals have received any benefit from the settlement, that has been disclosed in the normal way and any tax due has been paid,” Sassoon told the ICIJ.
“I have not received any benefit from the trust for more than 25 years.” He also said he had disclosed his potential interest in the trust when he joined the Treasury in 2002.
Appleby has denied allegations of wrongdoing, and said it does not tolerate “illegal behaviour.”