THE US-based owners of the St Enoch Shopping Centre are the latest to be accused of tax avoidance in the Paradise Papers leak.

Private equity firm Blackstone is said to have avoided tens of millions of pounds in UK taxes on property deals in Glasgow and London, according to experts.

The accusation is the latest to emerge from BBC Scotland who have seen leaked data from the offshore law firm Appleby.

More than 13 million documents have revealed a number of politicians, celebrities, corporate giants and business leaders said to be involved in secretive overseas arrangements.

The documents show Blackstone used offshore companies to purchase and operate the St Enoch Shopping Centre in Glasgow and Chiswick Business Park in London.

There is no suggestion that the plans were illegal but campaigners the Tax Justice Network described the structures Blackstone used as an "economic fiction".

Blackstone said its investments were "wholly compliant with UK tax laws".

Yesterday [TUES], a number of figures were implicated in the Paradise Papers leak: ·Apple avoided a 2013 crackdown on its controversial Irish tax practices by actively shopping around for a tax haven.

·F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton avoided tax on his £16.5m luxury jet.

·Celtic shareholder Dermot Desmond's private jet firm was accused of using an “aggressive” offshore tax avoidance scheme.

·Three stars of the BBC sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys, Patrick Houlihan and Martin and Fiona Delany, are said to have diverted more than £2m into an offshore tax-avoidance scheme.

New York-based private equity firm Blackstone is one of the world's biggest.

It's founder and CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, is a close confidant of US President Trump and was chair of Trump's strategic and policy forum.

In 2013, the multinational giant bought the St Enoch Centre, a Glasgow shopping complex housing nearly100 stores, for around £190m.

Documents show it would have avoided stamp duty of almost £8m and corporate tax on up to £10m annual rental income.

Both the St Enoch Centre, which Blackstone still owns, and Chiswick Park, a 33-acre office development in west London, were already held in property trusts known as JPUTs, in the tax haven of Jersey, when it bought them.


This allowed the firm to purchase the properties without paying millions of pounds in UK stamp duty.

George Turner, from the Tax Justice Network, told the BBC: "What they are doing is buying into the trust so when the original owners sold the property to Blackstone, then they weren't selling the property itself.

"They were selling an interest in the trust that owns the property and because that trust is owned offshore, they can avoid stamp duty."

US tax expert Reuven Avi-Yonah, from the University of Michigan law school, said the documents gave a "rare" insight into company structures that even tax authorities did not often see.

He said: "If HMRC becomes aware of the fact that this is a common type of structuring then they are more likely to challenge it because they will be aware they are losing a lot of revenue."

According to the BBC, two of the "Big Four" accountancy firms advised on the tax structures which were used to minimise or avoid every significant tax: Stamp Duty, Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax.

Deloitte issued a 67-page document for a tax structure for the St Enoch Centre while PwC outlined a 33-page document for that of Chiswick Park.

Law firm Appleby's job was to then implement these structures.

Mr Turner added: "The language really is quite shocking in places because it's so clear and blatant what the intention is.

"What you have here is a whole myriad of companies being set up, mostly in Luxembourg but also you have this trust structure in Jersey, and it seems to be to all intents and purposes an economic fiction."

Blackstone said: "Blackstone's investments are wholly compliant with UK and international tax laws and regulations.

"The property investment structures in question were acquired from institutional investors and are of a type commonly used for decades for investments in UK real estates, including by listed companies and a variety of institutional investors, and were adopted after appropriate advice was taken from leading tax and legal advisors."

Deloitte, which advised on the St Enoch purchase, declined to provide a comment to the BBC.

PwC, who advised on Chiswick Park, said "The advice we provide is given in accordance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, including proper disclosure to tax authorities."