The luxury Marbella villa where Boris Johnson has been staying this week is linked to a number of offshore tax havens, it has emerged.
The Spanish estate – with two swimming pools, organic farm and private woodland – has been lent to the prime minister by environment minister Zac Goldsmith.
But documents seen by the Guardian indicate that the villa has been held by an opaque offshore structure based in several tax havens.
They suggest that Goldsmith and his family may have owned the property through a Maltese company held by firms in Turks and Caicos – and administered by a wealth planning company in Switzerland.
Goldsmith declined to answer questions about the arrangements, although there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing.
But the prime minister’s stay, coming just days after the publication of the Pandora Papers, will call into question his government’s commitment to improving transparency in offshore property ownership in the UK.
Last week, responding to the leaks, Rishi Sunak – the chancellor – said the use of offshore companies to avoid tax “is a global problem”.
Downing Street defended Johnson’s decision to take a holiday on Monday, amid multiple domestic crises and just three weeks before he hosts the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow – but refused to confirm who was funding his stay at Goldsmith’s villa.
The environment minister was appointed to the House of Lords by Johnson in 2019, and is thought to be a close friend of Carrie Johnson – the prime minister’s wife.
On Tuesday, the Mirror published a photograph showing the prime minister painting a picture at the luxury villa – just hours after a parliamentary report found the government’s early handling of the coronavirus crisis was among the worst public health failures in British history.
It is not the first time Goldsmith’s wealth has come under the spotlight. In 2009, when a prospective MP, he admitted to claiming non-domiciled tax status.
And in 2016, he disclosed that he had made – and paid tax on – more than £10 million since entering the House of Commons in 2010, most of which came from a family trust established by his billionaire father.
Since becoming a peer, Goldsmith has registered an interest in a property in the Andalucía region of Spain via a family trust, with the resgister suggesting it is owned by a holding company, Bora Investments.
Bora Investments is a Maltese company which, until at least 2016, was owned by two secretive nominee entries in Turks and Caicos – where companies do not pay tax, the Guardian revealed.