A little-known loophole in UK company law is being used by Tony Blair to keep his finances secret, according to the Guardian. Blair would normally have to publish company accounts detailing the millions flowing into his various commercial ventures since he stepped down from office in 2007. But he has set up a complicated artificial structure which avoids the normal rule. In effect, he is getting the benefits of running a British company without the drawbacks of unwelcome publicity.
He is using something called Windrush Ventures No3 LP, a so called limited partnership. Thanks to a gap in the Whitehall regulations, this entity is not required to publish any accounts. Such partnerships must normally disclose figures, or face criminal penalties. Blair sidestepped the rules by inserting a second partnership as one of the notional partners, in a way the regulations do not cover. This second partnership, Windrush Ventures No 2 LLP, is a so-called limited liability partnership, a type of entity only invented in 2000, which, conveniently, the rules have not been updated to mention.
There is nothing illegal in what Blair has done, but he has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid having to publish accounts, and in doing so to keep his business arrangements private. What, we might ask, is he trying to hide, and can we trust him to be paying the correct amount of tax?
Given that while he is making all this money which he is so eager to hide from us, he is costing the taxpayer around £6 million a year in security in his role as one of the world's most hated men, I can’t help thinking that it is time that Mr Mandleson, as Business Secretary, or Mr Darling, as Finance Secretary, closed this loophole. I’m pretty certain it will be high on the list of the incoming cabinet!