By Charles Wanguhu
In the current financial crisis the role of offshore havens have been placed in the spotlight and quite rightly so. The lack of transparency in their dealings has meant that these centres have not only been used for tax evasion, money laundering, but also as bases for special purpose entities. The role of British offshore havens has of late been highlighted with regards to the ownership of football clubs.
The Riddle of Leeds Football Club ownership has played out quite interestingly in the Royal Court of Jersey. In January this year the Leeds Chairman Ken Bates told the court that he jointly owned the club’s holding company, Forward Sports Fund. However in an affidavit sworn for the same court in May, Bates states that he did not own any shares in Forward and that the previous statement was “incorrect” and “an error” on his part.
An interesting point to note is that Forward Sports Fund is a Cayman Islands-registered outfit, with its administrators in the very transparent capital of Switzerland. Château Fiduciaire the administrators/trustees on being pushed to reveal the beneficial owners of Forward indicated that;
“Understandably, it is not the policy of this company, a fully regulated Swiss fiduciaire, to release information on ultimate ownership without an appropriate court order, valid in Switzerland.”
The ownership of Leeds United has been routed via a network of offshore companies ever since Ken Bates arrived at Elland Road club in 2005. Bates in his affidavit states that:
“Neither I, Mark Taylor or Shaun Harvey are able to confirm who the ultimate beneficial owners of Forward are.”
The above not only makes a mockery of the Football associations “fit and proper test” of Club owners but just goes to show the lack of transparency in football administration.
A similar tale is being played out at league two Nott’s county club with the shareholding behind the Qadbak investment trust that now owns the club remaining unclear. A Pakistani businessman has come out to deny any shareholding in the club despite the club declaring that he was one of the key backers of the club. Qadbak, is surprise suprise registered in the British Virgin Islands.
As it stands Leeds football club is owned by the shareholders of a company registered in the Cayman Islands, administered in Geneva by trustees who pending a court order valid in Switzerland will not reveal the ultimate beneficial owners.