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Pandora Papers: Tony and Cherie Blair avoided tax using Bahraini company

The Blairs saved hundreds of thousands in taxes on a multi-million pound property via the offshore company
The Blairs saved £312,000 in stamp duty by acquiring the property's holding company instead of buying the building directly, worth £6.5m (AFP)

Tony Blair and his wife Cherie saved hundreds of thousands of pounds in taxes on a multi-million pound property by using an offshore company controlled by a Bahraini minister with links to the royal family, according to a major new data leak.

Documents from the Pandora Papers, the latest in a series of mass leaks revealing the questionable financial dealings of countless world leaders and business tycoons, reveal that the Blairs bought a lavish townhouse in central London by purchasing an offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) called Romanstone. 

The Blairs saved £312,000 in property taxes by acquiring the property's holding company instead of directly buying the building, which is worth £6.5m. 

Zayed bin Rashid Alzayani, Bahrain's minister for industry, commerce and tourism, holds the controlling stake for Romanstone and has spent more than £60m buying UK commercial property over the past nine years, including the property owned by the Blairs.

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Stamp duty is a tax paid by buyers of commercial or residential properties selling above £150,000 and £125,000. 

Cherie Blair denied any wrongdoing and told the Guardian that the Alzayanis did not want to sell the building separately from their BVI company and that she did not know the identity of the sellers before entering the transaction. 

The Blairs completed the purchase by setting up a UK company called Harcourt Ventures to acquire Romanstone. They subsequently closed the UK company after buying the building. 

The method used to purchase the property is not illegal but highlights a practice wealthy property owners use to avoid tax when buying properties in Britain. 

Documentation from the Pandora Papers also shows no evidence that the Blairs proactively sought to avoid paying stamp duty.

Handwritten notes found in the Pandora Papers showed that Bahrain's former Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa owned a shell company that held assets worth $60m. 

Bahrain's embassy in Washington DC did not reply to ICIJ's request for comment. 

The former prime minister, who died in 2020, was the world's longest-serving prime minister. He repeatedly cracked down on dissenters during his reign, jailing hundreds and killed demonstrators during the Arab Spring protest in 2011.