Monday, 29 April 2013

Clegg: Belgians spring tax surprise on Mrs Clegg

Belgians spring tax surprise on Mrs Clegg

Jason Lewis and Bojan Pancevski Published: Sunday Times 28 April 2013
Nick Clegg and his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Nick Clegg and his wife, Miriam Gonzalez (James Glossop)
BELGIAN bureaucrats have left Nick Clegg and his wife baffled over claims that she failed to pay tax for domestic staff the couple employed at their former home in Brussels.
Miriam Gonzalez, the Spanish-born wife of the deputy prime minister, was ordered in absentia to pay €1,000 — £840 at today’s exchange rate — after being taken to court over unpaid social security contributions for “up to four domestic staff”. The Labour Court in Brussels issued two judgments against her, one in December 2006 and another in May 2007.
However, the couple — who had lived in the city while he was an MEP and she worked for the European Commission — had moved to London in 2005.
The Liberal Democrats last night blamed “an administrative error” by the Belgian authorities and said that Gonzalez, an international lawyer, was attempting to establish “the full facts”.
“Miriam has attempted to establish why she was never notified about either the tribunal proceedings or the judgments, which both happened long after she had left Belgium to live in the UK,” said her spokesman.
A lawyer who represented the tax authorities in one of the hearings against Gonzalez said she deals with hundreds of similar cases each year. “Disputes like this are common in Belgium,” she said.
Gonzalez’s spokesman said that the National Social Security Office, the Belgian equivalent of the Department for Work and Pensions, had confirmed in writing to her last week that she did not owe it any money. All the same, she would repay anything she owed “if that were ever to be the case”.
“The first time that either Miriam or Nick were aware of these judgments was when they were brought to their attention by The Sunday Times,” the spokesman added.
“Miriam was never notified of the proceedings or the judgments and was therefore not represented and the facts were never challenged or checked. The validity of the judgments must be considered in that regard.”
Court documents reveal that the authorities in Belgium brought two cases against Gonzalez for defaulting on taxes.
The writs alleged failure to make payments for staff employed at the couple’s 19th-century townhouse in the heart of one of Brussels’s most prestigious districts.
Gonzalez was working as a senior adviser to the EU commissioners Chris Patten — the former Conservative cabinet minister and now BBC chairman — and Benita Ferrero-Waldner of Austria.
According to documents seen by The Sunday Times, she registered her household as “employers of domestic personnel” with the Belgian equivalent of Companies House between 2003 and 2005. She was found in default of tax for her employees in 2006 and 2007 after she had left Brussels.
Belgium judgment: Miriam Clegg's name was removed from the copy due to privacy laws

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Blair aide reopens bitter feud with axed 'mad cow' mandarin - in speech to Kazakh dictator's cronies

  • Jonathan Powell gave speech in oil rich former Soviet state Kazakhstan
  • But he launched personal attack on Sir Richard Packer
  • He previously compared Blair’s government to Hitler’s Third Reich

    Tony Blair’s former chief of staff flew 3,000 miles to an oil-rich former Soviet state run by a brutal dictator to tell them how they could learn from Britain’s long history of democracy.
    Jonathan Powell started out by explaining how Kazakhstan would be a vastly better country if it could have its own Rolls-Royce-class Whitehall civil service system, free of corruption.
    But he ended up reopening an old domestic feud by launching a personal attack on a fellow former British mandarin who compared Mr Blair’s New Labour government to Hitler’s Third Reich.
    Jonathan Powell
    Sir Richard Packer
    Feud: Jonathan Powell, right, reopened an old domestic feud by launching a personal attack on former British mandarin Sir Richard Packer, left,  who compared Mr Blair’s New Labour government to Hitler’s Third Reich

    After complaining how hard it was to get rid of troublesome civil servants in Britain, Mr Powell said the Government was forced to give a £1 million payoff to the official who was ‘to blame for the mad cow  disease’ crisis in the early days of  Mr Blair’s Premiership.
    He did not name the official, but he didn’t have to: Sir Richard Packer,  permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture in the late Nineties, last night said he had no doubt Mr Powell was referring to him.
    Mr Powell, along with Mr Blair,  has been advising Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in a deal reportedly worth up to £16 million.

      Kazakhstan has faced widespread concern over human rights abuses, the treatment of the president’s political opponents and brutality and murder by its police force. Its civil service is riddled with corruption and nepotism.
      Speaking at Nazarbayev’s State Management Academy, Mr Powell told his audience of the dictator’s apparatchiks: ‘When we came to power in 1997, there was a high-ranking official in the  Agriculture Ministry who was fully accountable for the outbreak of mad cow disease in the country.’
      Aide: Jonathan Powell is pictured with Tony Blair in 2007
      Aide: Jonathan Powell is pictured with Tony Blair in 2007
      According to a Kazakh news agency, Mr Powell said: ‘Nothing happened when we asked him to resign. We were told it was impossible to fire him and the best option was to promote him off this position. 
      'In the end, we had to pay him £1 million worth of termination fee. It is very difficult to get rid of such unwanted officials.’
      Sir Richard told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I have come across reports of Jonathan Powell bad-mouthing me before. It is something he has got in his head for some reason, I don’t know why. I might have spoken to him twice.
      ‘It all seems very strange and is also quite factually wrong. He seems to be accusing me of being responsible for BSE. I don’t see how anyone who knew anything, which doesn’t include  Powell, could say that. The BSE report says something completely different. Mr Powell should check his facts.’
      After leaving his Whitehall job, Sir Richard was fiercely critical of the Blair government. He told the BBC: ‘In one respect . . . [the Blair government] reminded me of the Third Reich where . . . nobody would know where ultimate responsibility lay.’
      Last night, Sir Richard denied having received a £1 million payoff, saying: ‘It depends how you add it up. I was there for more than 30 years (and) you can make up a very big figure with pensions and what have you. 
      ‘The implication of the £1 million is that I was paid over and above what  I was entitled to. It was fully within the rules. Once again, Powell’s rhetoric is completely at variance with  the facts.’
      Mr Powell was unavailable for  comment.

      Wednesday, 10 April 2013

      Horse Meat

      Imported horses ‘missing’

      The Sunday Times Published: 7 April 2013
       Minced horse meat is offered in a horse meat shop in Bremen, Germany, 14 February 2013Horsemeat on sale in Germany: thousands of imported horses may have ended up in British food (Ingo Wagner)
      Thousands of horses imported to Britain from Europe have “disappeared”, fuelling fears that they ended up in our food.
      Britain usually imports about 8,000 horses a year, including thoroughbreds for the racing industry and ponies for young riders. Many are slaughtered, however, and the UK exports horsemeat worth more than £4m a year.
      New figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs show that in two exceptional years Britain imported huge numbers of animals.
      In 2009, 22,209 arrived and 15,611 in 2011. At the same time, there was no noticeable increase in the number slaughtered or in the amount of horsemeat exported.
      Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, said: “Where did these animals go? It was a recession, British people were getting rid of their horses and yet huge numbers of animals were brought in and simply disappeared.”
      The figures add to mounting evidence that criminals played a major role in contaminating beef in food with horsemeat.
      Police and food safety officials have tracked consignments of meat to Britain concluding, “it arrived as beef and, in some cases, left as something else”, according to a source with detailed knowledge of the inquiry.