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Barclays Bank gags Guardian over leaked memos detailing offshore tax scam, 16 Mar 2009
On Monday 16th March 2009, The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom published a series of leaked memos from the banking giant Barclays, together with the article:
The next day, these documents were removed from The Guardian web archive, as a result of a court injunction obtained in the middle of the night:
- Barclays' lawyers, Freshfields, worked into the early hours to force the Guardian to remove the documents from the website. They argued that the documents were the property of Barclays and could only have been leaked by someone who acquired them wrongfully and in breach of confidentiality agreements.
- The Guardian's solicitor, Geraldine Proudler, was woken by the judge at 2am and asked to argue the Guardian's case by telephone. Around 2.31am, Mr Justice Ouseley issued an order for the documents to be removed from the Guardian's website.
The documents are copies of alleged internal memos from within Barclays Bank. They were sent by an anonymous whistleblower to Vince Cable, Liberal-Democrat shadow chancellor. The documents reveal a number of elaborate international tax avoidance schemes by the SCM (Structured Capital Markets) division of Barclays.
According to these documents, Barclays has been systematically assisting clients to avoid huge amounts of tax they should be liable for across multiple jurisdictions.
A commentator to the Financial Times stated:
- I was lucky enough to read through the first of the Barclays documents...
- I will say it was absolutely breathtaking, extraordinary. The depth of deceit, connivance and deliberate, artificial avoidance stunned me. The intricacy and artificiality of the scheme deeply was absolutely evident, as was the fact that the knew exactly what they were doing and why: to get money from one point in London to another without paying tax, via about 10 offshore companies. Simple, deliberate outcome, clearly stated, with the exact names of who was doing this, and no other purpose.
- Until now I have been a supporter of the finance industry - I work with people there regularly and respect many of them, and greatly enjoy the Financial Times and other financial papers. However this has shone a light on something for me, and made me certain that these people belong in jail, and companies like Barclays deserve to be bankrupt. They have robbed everyone of us, every single person who pays tax or who will ever pay tax in this country (and other countries!), through both the bailouts and schemes such as this.
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