Lewis Hamilton named in tax-avoidance scheme
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Formula One world champion and one of the world's wealthiest sportsmen, Lewis Hamilton, has been named in an offshore tax-avoidance scheme that is to be investigated by authorities.
Hamilton is accused of avoiding European taxes through a leasing business from which he rented his private jet back to himself, on the second day of revelations from the leaked Paradise Papers - a set of over 13 million confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investment, which might have been used to conceal income from taxation.
The documents were obtained by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
A number of high profile individuals and companies have been implicated in the revelations, which predominantly come from a hack on law firm Appleby.
British lawyer James O'Toole - who described himself in emails as a "tax alchemist" - set up structures designed to help the wealthy hide their money including a loophole for paying public school fees whilst operating within the law.
The first documents were leaked over the weekend, containing the names of more than 120,000 people and companies - including Queen Elizabeth II and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Hamilton was said to have been refunded £3.3 million ($6.3 million) in VAT when he imported his £16.5 million ($31.4 million) red Bombardier aircraft into England from Canada in 2013 through the Isle of Man.
The jet was bought by his British Virgin Islands (BVI) company, it was then leased to an Isle of Man company set up by Appleby who then leased it to a UK jet chartering company who then leased it to Hamilton and his team.
There is no suggestion the Hamilton was directly involved in creating the scheme used for his jet and he told the BBC that he asked a tax barrister to check the scheme and was told it was lawful.
The Isle of Man Government have reviewed their schemes and found no evidence of wrongdoing but have nonetheless asked the British tax office to investigate, The Guardianreported.
According to the newspaper, Hamilton "appears to have used shell companies in the BVI, the Isle of Man and Guernsey to avoid the entire £3.3 million VAT bill triggered when he imported his aircraft".
He set up another Isle of Man company to purchase a €1.7 million ($2.9 million) motorhome that he uses at racetracks.
No VAT appears to have been paid on that purchase either, The Guardian says.
The British racing driver, who won his fourth Formula One world championship at the Mexican Grand Prix late last month, is worth an estimated £130m.
Hamilton, 32, was recently named in the 11th place on Forbes' Rich after earning List £32 million ($60.8 million) over the preceding 12 months.
He is reportedly on the verge of signing a new contract with Mercedes which would make him the richest sports star in the world.