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TORIES' BUSINESS CZAR MONE USED NO-TAX SCHEMES; ANGER BRA QUEEN ON DEFENSIVE Critics accuse her of being out of touch with people she has been appointed to advise.


BRA tycoon turned Tory business czar Michelle Mone has come under attack over her company's use of tax avoidance schemes.

The lingerie entrepreneur's firm used employee benefit trusts (EBTs) topping PS500,000 before they began taking heavy losses.

The schemes were not illegal if used properly but were once branded "morally repugnant" by Chancellor George Osborne.

The revelations about Mone came days after the Tories unveiled her as the poster girl of a review which aims to boost the number of small companies in Scotland's deprived areas.

The Glaswegian, 43, is also expected to be made a peer by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Questions were raised about her suitability for the role when documents filed with Companies House revealed her firm MJM International paid more than PS500,000 into EBTs in 2010 and 2011.

Mone and her former husband Michael, both directors, were the trustees of the fund at the time.

In the same year, a "directors' loan account" reached PS862,000 - apparently to cover expenses.

Then, in December 2013, auditors said they could only give a "limited" report after they were not given enough information about a PS135,000 transaction at the company.

By this time, Mone had sold 80 per cent of MJM's parent firm Ultimo Brands to Sri Lankan investors MAS Holdings.

Auditors Scott-Moncrieff refused to comment on whether the PS135,000 sum was a payment to MJM or a debt.

They said: "A qualified audit report does not reflect the financial health of the business, and it does not mean that the financial statements are not transparent.

"It merely reflects the auditor's inability to give a clean report."

Critics denounced the move to appoint Mone, who is said to be worth at least PS20million, to the small business review.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: "You can see why she has become the poster girl for the Tories.

"Her use of tax-avoiding EBTs and enjoyment of lavish expense and company loan accounts shows how out of touch she and her Tory pals are with the rest of us. The financial machinations at the company when she was at the helm call into question her credentials for carrying out a review into business start-ups.

"What is she going to advise young, budding entrepreneurs? How to avoid tax, live outside your means and submit partial accounts? It's not a good message for new businesses."

Entrepreneur Douglas Anderson of GAP Group claimed the No campaign supporter would be "divisive" to Yes supporters, adding: "There is no way she is qualified to advise anybody on setting up a profitable business."

Mone's spokesman said her tax affairs were "handled in full compliance with the law. There is nothing to add on what are private matters."

EBTs landed Rangers in court when it was revealed that they had made payments to players using them, although the club were cleared of any wrong-doing.

What is she going to advise young, budding entrepreneurs? How to avoid tax, live outside your means and submit partial accounts?



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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 14, 2015
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