Belfast Telegraph

Conservatives forced to return another £20,000 after accepting donation from convicted tax evader

Revelation is embarrassing for Mr Cameron, who has made cracking down on tax evasion and avoidance a key part of his election campaign
Revelation is embarrassing for Mr Cameron, who has made cracking down on tax evasion and avoidance a key part of his election campaign

The Conservatives have returned a further £20,000 in donations after accepting money from a convicted tax fraudster, days after an investigation led to the party handing back more than £50,000 to his wife.

The Tories accepted a £10,000 donation from Stanley Tollman, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion in the United States in 2008, two weeks ago, along with another £10,000 from Beatrice Tollman.

A spokesman for the party said both donations had since been returned. It takes the total amount handed back to the Tollmans to more than £70,000.

Earlier this week The Independent revealed that Mrs Tollman, founder of the luxury hotel chain Red Carnation Group, made a £20,000 donation to the Tories earlier this month to boost the party’s general election campaign coffers.

She was herself charged with conspiracy to evade millions of dollars’ worth of tax in the US, charges that were dismissed by a judge in 2008.

The charges against Mrs Tollman were dropped on the same day as Mr Tollman pleaded guilty by agreement to a single count of tax evasion for which he was sentenced to one day’s unsupervised probation in London.

At the same time he agreed to pay more than $105 million to the US authorities in back taxes and penalties.

US authorities had spent five years unsuccessfully attempting to extradite Mrs Tollman from the UK over allegations that she and her husband had millions of dollars in taxable income in the Channel Islands.

The revelation is embarrassing for Mr Cameron, who has made cracking down on tax evasion and avoidance a key part of his election campaign and has boasted about his global leadership on the issue with his flagship G8 anti-tax avoidance initiative.

In the Conservative party’s manifesto last week he pledged to raise £5 billion by tacking those who don’t pay what they owe in tax the next five years.

This comes two years after the G8 summit in Northern Ireland two years ago when the Prime Minister announced new transparency rules to tackle corporate tax avoidance by securing agreement from a network of countries to share information that reveals the true owners of companies that he said would “lead to a fairer tax system”.

“When taxes are not collected, the poor suffer,” he said at the time.

Responding to The Independent’s investigation earlier this week, thea Conservative party spokesman said the donations from the Tollmans were declared “in strict accordance with the electoral law”. They had been returned in light of The Independent’s findings, a spokesman added.

Mrs Tollman has donated more than £60,000 to the Conservatives since 2011 but the £10,000 donation from Mr Tollman was the first donation recorded by the Electoral Commission.

The couple were close friends of Margaret Thatcher and were guests of the Reagans at the White House.

Mr Tollman said he only agreed to plead guilty in order to ensure the “future peace and security of the family”.

The couple’s son, Brett Tollman, chief executive of Travel Corporation, pleaded guilty to tax evasion in 2003 and was sentenced to more than two years in prison, as well as a $3.5 million penalty.

Writing in his memoirs, Mr Tollman explained why he agreed to the plea bargain: “It was galling to listen to these vast sums of money being referred to as though they were merely numbers and to the fact that I had agreed to hand all this money to the US Government. But the future peace and security of the family which this agreement would secure meant that I could see advantage in what I was about to do. But that did not make it right.”

A spokesman for Mr and Mrs Tollman said: “In so far as Mrs Tollman is concerned you will see she is of good character and was acquitted of all charges.”

Responding to Mr Tollman’s guilty plea, a spokesman said:  “Stanley Tollman admitted to having failed to report on his US tax return two bank accounts situated outside the US.  It was that omission for which he was sentenced to one day's unsupervised probation.

“The reality is that the financial settlement was the only means through which his family were going to be able to get on and lead their lives without being coerced by the Americans.”

Labour said the latest donation the Tories have had to hand back reveals a "chaotic campaign".

Jon Ashworth, the party's general election campaign deputy, said: "Once again we see that the Tories are taking money from the vested interests they stand up for in power. Whether through giving millionaires a tax cut, defending tax avoidance, or protecting hedge funds, the Tories always stand up for a privileged few.”

Source: Independent

Independent News Service


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