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Sunday, November 30, 1997 Published at 07:36 GMT

UK: Politics

Treasury minister reveals 18m fortune
image: [ Geoffrey Robinson says he put
Geoffrey Robinson says he put "beneficial interests" in a blind trust six days after General Election

The Paymaster General, Geoffrey Robinson, has issued a statement about his personal finances, because of what he calls "much media interest" in his business affairs.

Mr Robinson - a former chief executive of Jaguar Cars - is reported in the Independent on Sunday to be the beneficiary of an offshore trust with assets of more than 12m.

The newspaper says the Government wants to ban such trusts on the grounds that they are tax avoidance devices.

Mr Robinson's statement, which he said he was making because of a danger of "misrepresentation", reveals a fortune close to 18m.

The statement also says all of the Treasury minister's "beneficial interests" have been in a blind trust since May 7 - just six days after the General Election.

"I have substantial interests"

The procedure was based on Cabinet Office and Treasury advice, he says. It also mirrors the procedures followed by former Tory Ministers with similarly large holdings - such as former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine - according to the Treasury.

The statement also reveals that Mr Robinson, MP for Coventry North West since 1976, is a discretionary beneficiary under a Guernsey trust established for his family by a long-standing, late Belgian friend.

The arrangement involved no UK tax avoidance and he had never transferred capital or other assets into this trust, he says.

Mr Robinson, who founded the company, TransTec plc, says: "It is well known I have substantial business interests. On being appointed a minister, in line with the past practice of businessmen in Government, I sought the usual advice.

"I have received and continue to receive much media interest in my financial position, including an inquiry this weekend which convinces me that there is a danger of misrepresentation. I am therefore making this statement today."

"No tax avoidance"

The blind trust was drawn up by his solicitors, Titmuss Sainer Dechert, and with advice from the Treasury's Permanent Secretary Sir Terry Burns, according to established procedure.

The Paymaster General also informed his solicitors and the Permanent Secretary that he was a discretionary beneficiary under the Guernsey-registered Orion Trust.

The offshore trust was created by Madame Bourgeois, whom Mr Robinson describes as "a long-standing family friend for 20 years". She died in 1994.

"Madam Bourgeois was a Belgian national, resident in Switzerland. Therefore there was no, nor could there have been, any UK tax avoidance. Moreover, at no time have I transferred capital or other assets into the Orion Trust for tax or any other purpose," the statement says.

Paper claims trust worth 12.75 million

It reveals that Orion Trust did buy rights that arose for him from a TransTec rights issue in 1996. Orion bought them from another of Mr Robinson's companies, Stenbell Ltd, and to which he had sold the rights at market value.

He said he would also be taxed "in the normal manner" for capital gain for which he was liable as a result of the rights issue.

The Independent on Sunday claims the Orion Trust is worth 12.75 million. It says it is "just the sort of secretive avoidance device the Government wants to outlaw".

Mr Robinson's statement rejects that suggestion, insisting in relation to the Orion Trust: "There was no, nor could there have been, any UK tax avoidance."

It is understood that the Paymaster General has received no benefit from the trust since the election.

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