- Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster named in latest Paradise Papers leak.
- Grosvenor, 26, is Britain’s youngest billionaire, having inherited the vast Grosvenor estate after his father’s death in 2016.
- The Grosvenor Group set up two offshore trusts — Vesta Limited, based in Bermuda, and Nakar Holding SA, based in Panama.
LONDON — Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, is the latest major figure in Britain’s ruling class to be named in the so-called Paradise Papers — a major leak revealing how the world’s rich and famous hide their money in offshore tax havens.
The Duke, who inherited the vast fortune of his family after the death of his father last year, and subsequently became Britain’s youngest billionaire at the age of just 26, is named by The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday.
Grosvenor reportedly managed, thanks to careful planning from his family’s estate, to avoid paying 40% “death duties” usually levied when assets pass from one generation to another.
The latest story produced from a leak of 13.4 million files from two offshore service providers and 19 tax havens’ company registries shows that several decades ago the Grosvenor estate set up two offshore trusts — Vesta Limited, based in Bermuda, and Nakar Holding SA, based in Panama. Both of these firms had shares in Grosvenor International Holdings Ltd, the international branch of the family’s business.
“In March 2007, Grosvenor announced it was buying out Vesta and Nakar for £40 million. The reason given was to “better align the shareholders’ interests with the group’s activities.” The companies were dissolved later that year,” the Guardian reports.
A spokesperson for the Grosvenor Estate said:
“Two small overseas trusts were established over 50 years ago, when it was accepted common practice to facilitate the acquisitions of some non-UK assets. No family member has received any benefit derived from these but, as UK residents, if they ever did then they would be fully liable to tax in this country.
“Our policy is to uphold the highest standards of business practice. We are careful to ensure that our ownership of overseas property is through vehicles incorporated in the same country as the asset. Where the group occasionally has entities in offshore locations, it is typically as a result of the requirements of joint-venture partners.”
The Grosvenor estate is one of London’s largest landowners, with around 300 acres of West London property in its portfolio, including in wealthy, well-heeled areas like Belgravia and Mayfair.
The Grosvenor Group’s portfolio also includes the Liverpool One shopping district in Liverpool, as well as shopping centres in China, and apartment buildings in Canada and Japan.
No wrongdoing is being alleged by the ICIJ or the Guardian: “There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any people, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”