Shirl’s golden assets

Gold-ToiletWe were tickled pink to read this report from the archives of the Guardian:

It relates to the complex hunt for Shirl’s shekels which mysteriously disappeared when she was ordered to repay millions to her close buddies at Westminster Council.

” Investigators have frozen up to £30m of the hidden fortune amassed by Dame Shirley Porter and her family in their quest to recover the millions squandered by her in the Westminster “homes for votes” scandal in the 1980s.   After a hunt spanning three continents and lasting two years, City lawyers have uncovered millions of pounds in numbered bank accounts in Guernsey and a family trust in the British Virgin Islands.

A small fortune is also hidden in Switzerland where authorities are resisting approaches from the investigators.   The former Tesco millionairess, now living in Israel, has resisted paying a surcharge imposed by the House of Lords which now amounts with interest to £37m. She claimed that she had assets of only £300,000. Until now the main item seized by the investigators was a gold toilet seat.

Last night, in an email to the Guardian, she still insisted that she was worth very little.  She is being forced to pay the surcharge to return the millions she wasted in a scam to sell council homes to potential Tory voters to boost the party’s electoral chances in the 1980s.

In the 1980s she led the flagship Tory council, which was praised by Margaret Thatcher, but in she took fright when the normally comfortable majority was slashed to a tiny margin by the Labour opposition. She then concocted a scheme to sell off large numbers of council homes in marginal wards instead of housing the homeless.   An investigation by the district auditor, John Magill, exposed the scam as “wilful misconduct and improper gerrymandering“; finding that she had calculated that homeowners were more likely to vote Tory.

Her downfall is partly due to a City boardroom row involving her son, John. As part of the dispute between him and other directors, hundreds of emails were leaked to the press revealing the existence of the Guernsey accounts and trusts and bank accounts in the Caribbean.

Stephenson Harwood, the City lawyers pursuing her, were helped by the work of another investigator, George Liddell, employed by one of the directors, who had obtained information about financial dealings between her and her son.  The trail took the lawyers to Guernsey, Switzerland, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, a backstreet lawyer in Panama City, and to potential property deals in Nashville, Tennessee.

They even looked at a housing development in Birmingham to see if there was any connection with a land investment made by a Porter family trust.   Dame Shirley had sold her Tesco shares for more than £1m before the courts imposed the order in 2001 to recover the money.   According to Mr Liddell, the Guernsey bank account numbers were kept in a notebook by a trustee who slept with it under his pillow.   Mr Liddell’s information coincided with action by Stephenson Harwood – employed by Westminster council to find the money – which included serving court orders on Dame Shirley and her former financial adviser, Peter Green, to provide fresh details of her finances.

Until this month, the firm had obtained gagging orders against 14 companies and individuals forcing them to disclose information in secret about Dame Shirley’s past and present wealth. These orders have not been renewed because the City firm is understood to have received enough cooperation to trace the cash. It is understood that the lawyers seized Mr Green’s computer database in Mayfair, central London, which also led them to the bulk of the cash in Guernsey banks.

The freezing order obtained from courts in England and Guernsey is understood to cover money held by both Dame Shirley, her husband, Sir Leslie Porter, and her son, John Porter.She has also distributed much of her fortune to her sister, nieces and grandchildren. In a statement on behalf of John Porter, his lawyers said yesterday he had cooperated with the law firm’s investigations. The freezing orders are expected  to be vigorously challenged by the Porter family, who will claim that the money no longer belongs to her. Dame Shirley said she had been “completely accurate” about the size of her personal assets in a previous affidavit.

Get you Shirl with your golden WC!  That really is taking the p***.


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