LONDON: Millions of pounds from the private estate of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth have been invested in offshore tax haven funds, a huge new leak of financial documents — dubbed the Paradise Papers — revealed on Sunday.

Around 10 million pounds of the Queen’s private money was placed in funds held in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, according to a new leak by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which was behind the 2015 Panama Papers release.

The ICIJ reported the funds reinvested the money in an array of businesses, including controversial rent-to-buy retailer, BrightHouse, which has been accused of exploiting the poor, and a chain of alcohol stores which later went bankrupt.

The investments, which were entirely legal, were made through the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides the monarch with an income and handles investments of her vast estate and remain current, the media outlets said.

There is no suggestion that the Queen’s private estate acted illegally or failed to pay any taxes due.

But the leaks may raise questions over whether it is appropriate for the British head of state to invest in offshore tax havens.

A spokeswoman for the Duchy of Lancaster said: “All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate. We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds.”

The spokeswoman added that one of the fund investments represents only 0.3 per cent of the total value of the Duchy.

Meanwhile, the money put into BrightHouse “is through a third party”, and equates to just 0.0006 per cent of the Duchy’s value, she added.

The investments emerged as part of a new leak — dubbed the Paradise Papers — by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which was behind the 2015 Panama Papers release.

The latest haul contains 13.4 million documents mainly from Appleby, an offshore law firm with offices in Bermuda and beyond, which were first obtained by the German newspaper Sddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with the ICIJ and partner media outlets.

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2017

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