Boris holiday villa 'linked to firms ordered to pay £20m in tax probe'
Boris Johnson’s £25,000-a-week Marbella holiday villa ‘is linked to Zac Goldsmith tax evasion case in Spain that has landed his property firm with £20m bill’
- The Torre Tramores estate is owned by Goldsmith family’s Spanish property arm
- Two companies have been ordered to pay €24million in unpaid taxes and fines
- Swiss lawyer insists case stems from an overvaluation of land by tax authorities
Zac Goldsmith’s luxury Costa del Sol villa – where Boris Johnson holidayed last month – has been linked to a multi-million pound tax evasion probe.
According to Spanish court papers, the Torre Tramores estate near Marbella is linked to two of the Goldsmith family’s property businesses, which were ordered to pay €24m (£20m) in unpaid taxes and fines.
The tax authority could now legally seize parts of the family’s land – consisting of more than 600 hectares of private woodland in Benahavis, 10 miles from the Marbella coastline – if they don’t pay up.
But a lawyer for the one of the companies told the Guardian that the dispute stems from a land valuation error, dubbing the case as ‘extremely hard to understand’, while Ben Goldsmith, Zac’s brother, said the whole affair should serve as a ‘warning for Brits thinking of owning a property in Spain.’
Mr Johnson caught controversy when he stayed at the villa with his wife Carrie and son Wilfred last month, while the country was battling a fuel crisis and suffering through the supply chain crisis.
He is likely to now face questions over whether he knew the home was linked to an investigation by the Spanish tax authorities.
According to Spanish court papers, the Torre Tramores estate (pictured) is linked to two of the Goldsmith family’s property businesses, which were ordered to pay €24m (£20m) in unpaid taxes and fines
The investigation is said to have begun in Spain almost ten years ago, in 2012, when tax inspectors probed a deal which saw one of the Goldsmith companies transfer land on a large estate to a related company, reports the Guardian.
Court documents from 2008 show the family transferred plots of land near Benahavis village from Guadalmansa Administraciones to Benaltos Inversiones – in exchange for settling a €5m debt.
But the authorities accused the debt of being ‘fictitious’ and said it should have been labelled a ‘profitable transfer’ instead of a debt repayment.
They also said the land was significantly undervalued in the deal and that it was actually worth €23.2m.
The companies were ordered to pay €24m in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties for allegedly violating a legal requirement which states that transfers of assets between related entities must be priced at their normal market value.
Authorities also said the companies had not properly declared their financial gains from the transfer in their tax returns.
The Goldsmith companies appealed to the central economic-administrative court (CEAT) in 2016 – insisting that the debt was genuine and that the €23m land valuation was flawed.
However their appeal was rejected when the court agreed the debt was fictitious.
It said the deal was not a standard arrangement, citing the fact that ‘several companies domiciled in tax havens’ were involved ‘for no apparent economic reason’.
The CEAT also believed the valuation by tax inspectors to be kosher given that less than a year after the transfer, the land was used as security for a loan worth €23m – adding it had ‘no doubt’ Benaltos was guilty and that its improper actions had ‘resulted in a loss to the public treasury’.
The ruling was upheld by the audiencia nacional, one of Spain’s highest courts, two years later in 2018.
A further appeal is believed to have been filed by the companies with the country’s supreme court.
The Swiss lawyer for Guadalmansa told the Guardian that the Spanish tax inspectors significantly overvalued the property, adding that the assessment was ‘based entirely on one wildly aberrant valuation’ by an agency-appointed valuation company which has since acknowledged they ‘made a mistake’.
Boris Johnson caught controversy when he stayed at the villa with his wife Carrie Johnson and son Wilfred last month (pictured together), while the country was battling a fuel crisis and suffering through the supply chain crisis
She added: ‘The purchase was proper, and all taxes associated with the property have always been paid in full.’
She added that the sprawling villa where Johnson holidayed was ‘entirely separate’ from the property and company caught up in the tax dispute.
However public records suggest it does form part of the Goldsmiths’ wider sprawling property holdings in Benahavis.
The Prime Minister quietly revealed in a list of ministerial interests earlier this month that Lord Goldsmith allowed him, Carrie and their son Wilfred to stay at the estate without payment.
Lord Goldsmith is the former MP for Richmond Park – a close friend of the PM’s wife – who was elevated to the peerage by Mr Johnson after losing his seat at the 2019 election.
The move allowed the 46-year-old to remain in Government as an environment minister. He is currently Minister for the Pacific and the Environment having been given an additional role in a 2020 reshuffle.
Downing Street previously said the luxury villa was ‘unconnected with the PM’s parliamentary and political activities’.
Mail Online has contacted Lord Goldsmith for comment.
His brother Ben, a non-executive director at the environment department, simply told the Guardian: ‘This whole thing serves as a warning to any Brit thinking of owning a property in Spain.’
Neither have commented on how far they were involved with or aware of the property deal at the heart of the Spanish tax probe.
Lord Zac Goldsmith (pictured) is the former MP for Richmond Park – a close friend of the PM’s wife – who was elevated to the peerage by Mr Johnson after losing his seat at the 2019 election
The siblings inherited £1.2bn when their father Sir James Goldsmith died in 1997.
The Tramores Estate was purchased by the Goldsmiths in the 1980s, and by 1999, a company linked to a Cayman Islands structure is said to have been used by the family to purchase more land around the villa.
The property came under fresh attention in October when it emerged that it was featured in the so-called ‘Pandora Papers’ – the notorious long-running leak of almost 12 million documents which revealed hidden wealth, tax avoidance and even money laundering by some of the world’s rich and powerful.
The documents showed that the estate is held by ‘an opaque offshore structure based in multiple tax havens’.
This structure apparently involves the property being owned through a Maltese company which in turn is held by companies in the Turks and Caicos Islands and administered by a wealth planning firm based in Switzerland.
Such offshore companies have recently been used to own the land and properties of the Goldsmiths dotted in the hills around the mountain town of Benahavis, reports the Guardian.
But Zac Goldsmith has only declared one company as owning part of his family’s land outside the village, when there are in fact at least three.
The Lords register of interests lists only a Spanish and Maltese company as holding an interest in land in Andalucia, Spain’s southern-most autonomous region.
But the Guardian reports that documents suggest companies which have not been declared have been used to hold land and generate income from holiday rentals.
A spokesperson for the peer insisted: ‘All reportable interests have been correctly and transparently declared.’
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