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Freeport shopping centre's new owner - "a formula for both avoiding tax and laundering money"

4699With the recent hosting by British Prime Minister David Cameron of an anti-corruption conference at Lancaster House, perhaps he should take a look closer to home before lecturing everyone else on accountability. No, I am not referring to the controversy regarding Tory funding expenses during the 2015 elections; I am referring the tax affairs of David Cameron's lifelong friend Andrew Feldman, who of course is also the current chairman of the Conservative Party.

Feldman was exposed by the Guardian news paper in 2013 for paying thousands to the Conservative Partywhile happily avoiding corporation tax in his company Jayroma (London) Ltd. What wasn't revealed in the article was how he was avoiding paying corporation tax: his company was filing “estimated losses”.

Freeport Shopping's new 'sustainable' owners under the spotlight

freeportNow that the Alcochete shopping outlet (aka Freeport) situated just outside Lisbon has new owners, we can look at the new people and companies which now run this controversial shopping centre.

The new deal is a joint venture (VIA Outlets) between shopping centre managers Hammerson, Value Retail (operators of “premium outlets”), the Dutch pension fund APG and Meyer Bergman, a retail property investor.

Freeport Shopping goes bust

freeportThe companies behind the Freeport shopping centre built near Lisbon that featured in an earlier José Sócrates corruption inquiry have gone into liquidation owing HMRC £26 million and exposing a long list mortgages that have never appeared on their balance sheets.

Accountancy company PriceWaterhouseCoopers has been appointed to handle the Freeport and CEREP UK Investment D GP Ltd winding up.

Devious accounting surrounds Freeport - what's going on?

freeport2It's shocking: at the time of writing Freeport still has failed to file its accounts with Companies House, even though they are overdue by over four months.

This also is the case with its only shareholder, CEREP UK Investment D GP Ltd. According to company law, because Freeport is an unlimited company, it does not legally have to file its accounts, but its shareholder does, as it is a limited company.

Freeport scandal - 'close the shopping centre and return the land to the people'

freeport2Freeport hit the headlines some years back when it was involved in a bribery scandal around former environment minister José Sócrates and the building of the Alchochete shopping mall on environmentally-protected land.

Allegations were made, accusations thrown, and it all ended up in court. It's now on public record that some people accused the then environment minister, José Sócrates, of being corrupt.

Creative accounting by Freeport's owners reduces tax bill to under £1,000

freeport2Freeport Retail Limited, not to be confused with Freeport – the worthless and insolvent company that 'manages' the Alcochete shopping centre just outside Lisbon, recently published its 2013 accounts.

Freeport Retail Limited is a management company set up by the then directors of Freeport back in August 2010. Then Freeport managing director  Robert Hodges, commented a year later after the formation of the company, “The new Freeport Retail offer allows us to grow income from other investors using  the same expertise that have seen us improve profitability of Freeport's assets  year on year for the last four years, in challenging broader economic  condition.”

Freeport directors sign suspicious accounts

freeport2The recent financial and banking  crash which started in 2007-2008 (and hasn't really gone away), at least made  the average person on the street more financially astute.

Many people became  aware of the rather obscure and sometimes exotic terms conjured up by the  financial and banking institutions: credit default swaps (CDS), collateralized debt obligations (CDO) and a whole host of other terms - like investor  derivatives marketing (IDM).

Freeport's accounts still don't add up

freeport2 Freeport's accountants, RSM Tenon Audit Limited (subsequently referred to as Baker Tilly, as they have been taken over) have refused to give an explanation for their errors in  preparing Freeport's last published accounts (year ended 30 June 2012).

Baker Tilly are members of the esteemed Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales, so I emailed them to complain about the errors I discovered in the the accounts. The Institute then advised me that it would be writing to Baker Tilly and would  reply to me once they had received an answer. I also emailed the head of Baker Tilly, John Abbot (no relation to the current prime minister of Australia,  at least not as far as I am aware) to inform him of the situation.  Unfortunately, John was too busy earning and spending his £300,000 (plus) a year salary to even bother replying.