By Alexis R. Milan, Staff Reporter
The United States (US) Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) recent tax evasion probe into financial institutions in Belize is centered on business interests all owned by Lord Michael Ashcroft. A well-known personality in Belize and the United Kingdom, Ashcroft has recently come under more public scrutiny after the release of his unauthorized biography of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Belize Bank, Belize Bank International and Belize Corporate Services, all of which belong to Ashcroft’s BCB Holdings Limited, are subject individually to the IRS’ “John Doe” summons issued several weeks ago. Under the summons, the IRS is authorized to access all accounts belonging to American citizens and look for those who have not declared their assets.
Ashcroft’s name has been gaining more notoriety in the international media since the release of Cameron’s biography, which includes a scandalous allegation against the British PM. The book was released this week. In the book, Ashcroft, who conceded to being a life-long conservative party supporter and campaign financier, claims that during his college years, Cameron performed a lewd act in which he inserted a certain part of his anatomy in a dead pig’s head.
Naturally, the claims have been ventilated in most international and social-media circles, but Ashcroft himself has taken center stage, with many questioning the motive for the book and the allegation. In an excerpt from the book’s preface, Ashcroft wrote that his relationship with Cameron became strained after the 2010 election and that the government job Cameron offered him then didn’t adequately reflect his contributions to the party. Ashcroft added that his book is not a bid to settle scores.
Cameron has since denied the allegations levied against him and the interest in the book’s author has increased. Forbes magazine last week revealed, “Now comes a development with the potential to turn the spotlight back on Cameron’s accuser, Lord Michael Anthony Ashcroft. A long time party donor, Ashcroft once drew criticism in the UK for exerting full-press political influence, while enjoying part-time tax status. Now, he has emerged as the controlling shareholder of a pair of offshore banks with American clients who are under suspicion of tax evasion.”
Still, the Belize Bankers Association statement several weeks ago, following the announcement by the IRS, asserted that the probe is no indication of impropriety by any of the financial institutions and that the process is supported by standing agreements between the US and Belize.
Forbes’ article did note, however, that one of the banks advertised its ability to provide undisclosed accounts to non-Belizean residents. According to court filings by the Department of Justice in the US, Belize Corporate Services, a non-bank entity owned by Ashcroft’s holding company, has advertised the sale of “Belize Ready Made Companies” as well as “virtual office” services, including the ability of mail and telephone calls to be forwarded to Belize, it added.