A prominent Brexiteer was yesterday accused of insulting Britain by planning to leave the UK to avoid up to £4billion in tax.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, was knighted less than a year ago but has reportedly drawn up plans to move his home and his vast wealth to Monaco.
The claim drew fury from politicians who accused the 66-year-old of greed and insulting the country which had knighted him.
Meg Hillier, the Labour chairman of the public accounts committee, said:
‘To be made a knight of the realm and then to start planning this is sticking two fingers up to the country that has honoured you.’
Sir Jim, who founded the chemicals company Ineos and previously described himself as ‘deeply pro-British’, is Britain’s most successful entrepreneur with an estimated fortune of £21billion.
The Sunday Times reported that he and two senior executives at the firm, Andy Currie and John Reece, would deprive the Treasury of between £400million and £4billion if they took their wealth offshore as part of a complex but legal tax avoidance plan. Ineos has benefited from Government help on several occasions, including a £230million loan guarantee in 2014 to help it build a gas storage tank at its Grangemouth refinery in Falkirk.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable described the alleged plan to move billions of pounds from the business offshore as ‘deeply cynical’. He said: ‘There are thousands of our constituents who are being bankrupted by HM Revenue & Customs action over small-scale tax avoidance while big fish like Ratcliffe are just treating taxation as purely voluntary.
‘The idea that we should be dishing out knighthoods to people who have no commitment to this country is rather shameful.’
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: ‘The greed of these super-rich tax avoiders seems to have no bounds.
‘Don’t they realise that every penny they hide away in their tax havens is a penny not spent on our NHS treating the sick, or social care looking after our lonely, isolated elderly, or the education of our children?’
Sir Jim, a joiner’s son and former grammar school boy from Manchester, has been a vocal supporter of Brexit and criticised the EU last week for its ‘stupid’ green taxes which he claimed were choking the chemicals industry in Europe.
In an open letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, he warned Europe was ‘no longer competitive’ because of its strict energy and labour laws.
He has previously clashed with the UK Government over tax. In 2010, after he was refused a six-month deferral on a £350million VAT bill for Ineos, Sir Jim moved its domicile to Switzerland for six years, at a cost to the Treasury of millions of pounds of tax.
The firm has since been valued at £35billion, has a turnover of around £45billion and 18,500 employees in 22 countries.
Ineos was said to have worked with accountancy firm PwC on the tax avoidance plan, and the Sunday Times reported senior figures at the money giant had raised concerns about reputational damage.
PwC’s UK management board was alleged to have consulted its public interest body, whose chairman is former Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell, as to whether it should advise Sir Jim or resign from the Ineos account.
Ineos said: ‘Ineos and its owners always fully adhere to all tax legislation and consistently use external professionals to verify that all procedures are correct and compliant.’
PwC said: ‘Consideration is given to all matters handled by PwC… concerning public interest and reputation. These are usual procedures… PwC can confirm it did not consider there was any reason to terminate its relationship with Ineos.’
Originally published at Daily Mail