Belfast Telegraph

Bono and Mrs Brown's Boys stars linked to Paradise Papers tax havens

By Staff Reporter

Leaked papers revealing investments in tax havens by the world's wealthy suggest U2 frontman Bono used a company based in low-tax Malta to buy part of a shopping mall in Lithuania.

The Paradise Papers document trove reveals that the singer was an investor in Maltese company Nude Estates, which bought the Ausra shopping centre in 2007.

Bono's spokeswoman told the Guardian that the rocker, whose real name is Paul Hewson, was a "passive minority investor in Nude Estates Malta Ltd, a company that was legally registered in Malta until it was voluntarily wound up in 2015".

The Irish band, well known for its poverty-fighting efforts, have faced past criticism over their tax arrangements.

U2 were heavily criticised in 2006 for moving their corporate base from Ireland to the Netherlands, where royalties on music incur virtually no tax.

In 2011, protesters inflated a giant balloon reading "U Pay Tax 2?" during U2's set at the Glastonbury Festival.

Speaking in 2013, Bono robustly defended the band's handling of their tax affairs.

The Dubliner insisted that U2 were in "total harmony with our Government's policy" on tax.

The Ausra shopping centre is in the town of Utena, some 100km north of Lithuania's capital, Vilnius.

The 3,700 square-metre mall was built in 2006 and sold to unknown foreign investors in 2007.

Its management told reporters that they were not aware of Bono's involvement in the property's ownership.

Meanwhile, three stars of the BBC sitcom Mrs Brown's Boys reportedly put more than £2m into companies in Mauritius as part of a tax avoidance scheme.

Patrick Houlihan and Martin and Fiona Delany took funds received from the production company owned by creator and star of the show, Brendan O'Carroll, and transferred them overseas, the BBC reported.

Documents allegedly show money paid into a UK firm by the production company was transferred to Mauritius companies through a trust which took 12.5%.

These companies, said to be under the actors' control, then used a third party to pay loans into the three actors' personal UK bank accounts, it is claimed.

Mr O'Carroll told the broadcaster neither he nor his companies had been involved in a tax avoidance scheme or structure.

A spreadsheet showed that, in December 2015, Mr Houlihan's offshore company had assets of £696,349, Fiona Delany's £715,122, and Martin Delany's £725,030, the BBC said.

Mr Houlihan told the Irish Times he did not fully understand the scheme, and that he had to Google what tax avoidance was when he was contacted by a BBC reporter. The actors have not responded to the BBC's request for comment.

Guidance released in summer 2016 from HM Revenue and Customs warned that it can tax loans paid to contractors or freelance workers through trusts or umbrella companies, just like normal income.

"In reality, you don't pay the loan back, so it's no different to normal income and is taxable," the guidance said.

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