Paradise Papers: Queen's private estate invests in offshore tax havens

Millions of pounds from the private estate of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II have been invested in offshore tax haven funds, a huge new leak of financial documents have revealed, but the monarch's estate managers defended the investments by calling them "fully" legitimate.

Investments included the doomed off licence Threshers and Brighthouse, a loan-to-buy business accused of exploiting the poor.

"We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds".

The Paradise Papers are a huge cache of 13.4 million records, dating from 1950 to 2016, obtained by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

"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", said Graham Smith, CEO of The Republic Campaign, which seeks to replace the monarchy with an elected head of state.

There is nothing to suggest that any of the investments are illegal.

The documents also made it possible to establish the Queen, through her Duchy holdings, came to acquire in 2007 an indirect stake in a now-defunct British chain of alcohol stores and that rent-to-own company, called BrightHouse.

The leak, dubbed the Paradise Papers, contains over 13million documents - mostly from one leading firm in offshore finance.

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Last week the Financial Conduct Authority said BrightHouse had not been a "responsible lender" and ordered the firm to pay £14.8 million back to almost 250,000 customers.

In the most recent fiscal year, the Duchy generated £19.2 million ($25 million) in net income according to its website. The Queen is exempt from paying tax, but despite that status, she has paid tax voluntarily on her income since 1993.

The Duchy said in a statement that the investment in BrightHouse was made "through a third party", and equates to just 0.0006% of the Duchy's value.

Downing Street said Mrs May did not have any direct offshore investments and her assets were held in a blind trust, in line with normal practice for ministers.

The Duchy also invested around US$7 million in the Jubilee Absolute Return fund, which invests in hedge funds.

The Queen doesn't directly oversee the Duchy's investments, and most of its income, while private, goes toward covering the expenses for her and other royals that aren't covered by public funds through the sovereign grant.

The Duchy says there are no tax advantages to investing offshore.

  • Sonia Alvarado