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Oh dear...

Quote:BBC in row with the Conservative party over plans for Panorama film on Lord Ashcroft
The BBC is at loggerheads with the Conservative Party over plans to screen a documentary about Lord Ashcroft, a key member of David Cameron’s election team.

[Image: Lord-Ashcroft_1445444c.jpg]

By Andrew Porter, Political Editor
Published: 8:00AM GMT 13 Feb 2010

The corporation filmed a series of interviews for a special edition of Panorama which will focus on the billionaire Tory peer.
The Conservatives fear the BBC wants to broadcast it in the critical weeks running up to the general election, although last night the corporation said no transmission date had been set.

With the election campaign already – in effect – under way, the timing is sensitive and senior party figures reacted with anger to the plan.
Panorama reporters went to Belize to interview senior politicians and businessmen about Lord Ashcroft. They also sent questions to the peer, who was partly brought up in the Caribbean country and has business interests there. It is understood that Lord Ashcroft does not object to the television programme, but is concerned about the timing.

A source said: “We are basically 12 weeks away from an election and this smacks of Left-wing BBC bias. They have been using licence-fee payers’ money to interview a succession of people over a period of several months that will turn up nothing new.

“Election purdah is no longer just those few weeks of a campaign, it should be now really. The election has as good as begun.”

The Daily Telegraph understands that letters of protest were sent from senior Tory ranks to Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general and Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the BBC Trust.

William Hague, Mr Cameron’s deputy and a close friend of Lord Ashcroft, defended the peer and said he expected the BBC to be “even-handed”. He said “the real scandal” was the Labour Party’s funding by the trade unions. Labour has questioned the peer’s tax status for years and encouraged rumours about his business dealings.

Lord Ashcroft declined to comment.

A spokesman for the BBC confirmed that it had received some correspondence from Lord Ashcroft. He said: “The subject of the correspondence relates to a programme that is currently in production and which has not been scheduled and, as is our usual practice, we are not going to comment further on a programme that hasn’t been aired.”
I love that 'left wing BBC bias' bit. They do that here with the ABC and it cracks me up each time. Only some one like Attila the Hun could say that they have a 'left wing' bias.
Lest we forget...

Back in a universe far away in the long forgotten past (1999):

Quote:The case of British Tory Treasurer Michael Ashcroft: wealth, patronage and parliamentary politics
By Tony Hyland
4 August 1999
Over the last few weeks parliamentary debate in Britain has been dominated by the spectacle of the Labour government and Conservative opposition trading accusations and counter-accusations over sleaze.
Standing at the center of this battle is the figure of Michael Ashcroft, business tycoon and treasurer of the Conservative (Tory) Party. Over the past few years he has donated £1 million annually. The contributions of Britain's fourteenth richest man amount to one tenth of the party's financial resources.
That the Conservative Party is reliant on the largesse of big business for their funding is not a new phenomenon. That they are so dependent on the patronage of a single benefactor is of contemporary relevance. It demonstrates that considerable sections of British big business have switched their traditional allegiance from the Tories to the Labour Party.
Michael Ashcroft is a Florida-based billionaire who holds both British and Belize nationality. The former British colony in Central America has served as an offshore tax haven for his business empire.
Initially the allegations made against the undue influence Ashcroft exerts on the Conservatives related to concessions extracted from the previous Tory government which were advantageous to his business dealings in Belize. This was later expanded to include possible involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering.
On July 13 the London Times published two leaked foreign office documents. The first involved a telegram written in 1997 by the British high commissioner in Belize, Gordon Barker, cautioning against the appointment of Ashcroft to the chair of the Caribbean trade advisory group. It warned that the Belize government viewed him with “deep suspicion” and remarked that rumors concerning his business deals cast a “shadow over his reputation that ought not to be ignored.”
This was followed by a 1994 report by a British foreign office adviser calling for tighter regulation of financial services in Belize and noting with some alarm that “low standards of regulation and supervision” were attracting “those seeking to conceal proceeds of drug trafficking and other serious crime.”
Ashcroft's response was allegedly to quash the report and solicit the British government to intervene on his behalf. Another document involved a letter from a local diplomat in 1996, Charles Drace-Francis, stating that Ashcroft made threats to the effect that he would “stir up trouble” for Britain unless he were allowed to set up a branch of his Belize bank in the Turks and Caicos islands.
Four days later the Times disclosed that Mr. Ashcroft's name appeared in a series of files kept by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as part of its investigations into drug trafficking and money laundering in Belize. It later transpired that cocaine was found on at least two ships sailing under the Belize “flag of convenience” in 1994, under a shipping register in which Mr. Ashcroft had a 50 percent stake until earlier this year.
The attempted rebuttal to such charges by the Conservative Party Central Office, as well as the pro-Tory Telegraph and Daily Mail newspapers, was far from emphatic. A statement by the US State Department to the effect that no conclusive proof had been established connecting Michael Ashcroft with money laundering and no specific concerns had been raised with either the British or Belize governments was released.
The Times then published an article which explained that Ashcroft had been index-numbered on the files of the DEA, a step taken only when serious suspicions exist. On the same day Peter Bradley, Labour MP for Wrekin, raised explicit allegations within Parliament. Utilising the legal immunity afforded under parliamentary privilege, Bradley stated that Ashcroft and his companies had been repeatedly mentioned in connection with money laundering by the DEA. Among the most incriminating examples was one document dated April 1994 with the heading: “Intelligence concerning possible air smuggling/money laundering activity undertaken by Michael Ashcroft.”
It was only after this, nine days after the initial accusations had been made, that Michael Ashcroft issued a libel writ against the Times, naming the editor Peter Stothard and two journalists. Tory leader William Hague has resisted calls from inside as well as outside of the Conservative Party for Ashcroft to stand down while he pursues legal action.
Speaking in Parliament Hague stated: “I'm surprised the Labour Party has the nerve to talk about this, because after Formula One and fox hunting there's only one party where a large donation is coincidentally followed by a change in policy, and that's this government.”
This is a reference to the £1 million donated by Bernie Ecclestone, the owner of Formula One and another member of Britain's wealthy elite. This donation was only disclosed after the Labour government decided to make motor racing exempt from the ban on tobacco advertising.
The accusations made by Peter Bradley were countered by Tory backbenchers, who also made use of parliamentary privilege, to claim that Bradley was guilty of impropriety himself. Six Tory MPs put down a motion stating that the Labour MP should “look to his own record in public life before making unfounded allegations about the business affairs of a private individual, under the cloak of parliamentary privilege”.
His alleged failure to declare a conflict of interest relates to his former position as a local councilor, when he blocked a planning application by Waitrose supermarket while working as a consultant for a competitor, Safeways.
That rebuttals over allegations of sleaze should take this form is highly indicative. Neither the government nor the opposition can deny that they are dependent upon the finance of big business and that this exerts ever-greater influence over the policy decisions they make.
That the Times newspaper should profess such concerns over a single businessman wielding control over a political party is an irony to which none of the political commentators have drawn attention. The broadsheet is part of Rupert Murdoch's multi-media, transnational News Corporation. In the course of the 1997 general election Tony Blair went all out to win his backing.
The tabloid Sun, another Murdoch newspaper, switched its allegiance from the Tories to Labour, and this was an important factor in Labour's victory. The Sun is the highest circulation paper in Britain. In the aftermath of the election Labour silently dropped its proposals to introduce new restrictions on cross-media ownership, which would have been detrimental to the activities of News Corporation.
The correlation between Ashcroft's rapid amassing of wealth and his efforts to influence the political process raise serious democratic concerns. He became a millionaire by the age of 31 after a cleaning firm he bought with a £15,000 loan was sold five years later for £1.3 million. Since then his profits have been accumulated through non-stop acquisitions. Carlisle Holdings, his principle business vehicle, was acquired last year and merged with Belize Holdings Incorporated (BHI). A series of acquisitions followed. Ashcroft's business ventures have a combined workforce of 47,000.
He owns the fourth largest bank in Belize and has a 26 percent share in Belize Telecommunications. Earnings from his interests in Belize account for 20 percent of Carlisle's profits. Ashcroft made large donations to the People's United Party of Belize (PUP), estimated in the area of $1 million, while they were the opposition party. After coming to power last year they introduced legislation which was beneficial to his business operations. This included legislation offering tax exemption to some companies, including BHI. Ashcroft's Bank of Belize was also granted the exclusive right to set up off-shore companies in the country for UK and US citizens. He was also appointed Belize ambassador to the United Nations.
A large portion of his business profits have been derived from contract cleaning. Approximately two-thirds of the transnational's profits are generated in the US, where the former BHI owned a number of cleaning companies, including OneSource, the market leader in this field.
Questions have arisen over what influence he may have exerted on the Tory government to introduce compulsory competitive tendering in the public services in the mid-eighties, in which operations such as cleaning were privatised. Ashcroft stood to gain from this as it opened up an untapped market for the cleaning services he owned. These questions center round whether he funded Pulse, the pressure group lobbying for the contracting out of public services in 1986-7.
A striking aspect of these exposures is the fact that the incidents cited are not recent. Ashcroft has been Conservative Party treasurer since last summer. So why is it only now that concerns are being raised?
One explanation is the ongoing internal feuding within the Tory party. Peter Stothard, the Times editor, maintains close connections with Tory grandees. The article which first appeared raising concerns over Ashcroft's preponderance within the party was published in June and entitled “Massive donations make Tories the plaything of one man”.
According to Stothard, in an interview given to the Guardian's Roy Greenslade, a meeting was arranged between himself and Ashcroft by Lord Bell, a PR man for the Conservatives. Ashcroft was invited to put his side of the argument in the newspaper and silence the rumors. This offer was declined in favor of interviews in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, which are perceived as being more loyal to the Tory party cause.
More serious allegations began in earnest several weeks later. That the party was becoming so cash-strapped and dependent on being bankrolled by a single business with a dubious reputation was widening the rifts within the ranks.
The scandal has demonstrated William Hague's poor standing with wide sections of the ruling class. The Evening Standard conducted a recent survey of 106 City of London and business leaders, media executives and think tank directors. Some 68 percent believed that Hague was doing “fairly badly” or “very badly” as party leader. In contrast, the majority believed that Labour were performing better in areas usually entrusted by big business to the Tories, including welfare, running the economy and maintaining low inflation.
Sections of the party have warned that the inability to cast off the image of sleaze will spell the end of the Tories as an electoral party. Speaking on Radio 4, senior Conservative campaigner John Strafford stated, “I hope he [Ashcroft] will go so we can get past this stage in our fortunes ... Clearly sleaze has an effect, as we saw in the last general election. We ought to clear all this problem of sleaze away...”
The issue has been used as a barely concealed attempt by sections of the Tory right to displace William Hague as leader. Ashcroft's appointment as party treasurer was made by Hague. Michael Portillo, favored as an alternative to Hague, has stated that this reflects badly on the present leader's judgement. The ability of Hague to maintain his leadership of the Tories will be dependent on the outcome of the libel case against the Times.
The Times campaign has also had the effect of creating a distraction from the Labour government's misfortunes—it suffered poor results in the recent European and local elections, and has itself been targeted for more sleaze allegations. Besides the issue of Formula One, there have been high level resignations from the government concerning the activity of business lobbyists and undisclosed financial transactions with ministers. Using the campaign against Ashcroft, the Times called for a vote for Labour in the recent by-election held in Eddisbury on 22 July.
The whole issue of political funding only serves to highlight the narrow social basis upon which the main parties rest. Parliamentary politics does not consist of a genuinely democratic public debate over policies. Rather it increasingly revolves around leaks and scandals orchestrated by PR consultants and spin doctors. Such is the public face of back-stage political intrigue and the efforts of the mass media and its wealthy owners to manipulate public opinion.


Quote:Michael Ashcroft Criminal? Major drug dealer?
Submitted by cameleon on Fri, 2005-09-16 00:13. General
Reform group urges Ashcroft to quit


A leading Tory pressure group last night called on Micheal Ashcroft to resign as Conservative Party treasurer.

The demand from the Tory Reform Group, whose members include Kenneth Clarke and Micheal Heseltine, was the first direct challenge to Mr. Ashcroft from party heavyweights and dismayed the leadership after a successful first day of the party conference at Blackpool.

The call came in an editorial of Reformer, the group's magazine, which said that Mr. Ashcroft should stand aside to fight the libel action he has instituted against The Times. It praised the billionaire businessman for the vigorous defence he is conducting through the courts but added: How edifying is it in the new post-scandal Tory Party that the party treasurer should be having to do this? Surely his best service at present would be to resign as treasurer while giving himself a clear run at his accusers.

The resignation call came against a backdrop of questions raised by The Times over Mr. Ashcroft's suitability to hold the post of treasurer of the Conservative Party. The Times disclosed that Mr. Ashcroft lobbied fiercely against attempts to strengthen financial regulation in Belize, where his business empire is based, at a time when Britain and America were concerned about the risk of money laundering. Mr. Ashcroft's name has been mentioned in a number of US Drug Enforcement Administration documents.

The Tory Reform Group argued that, if and when Mr. Ashcroft won his legal action, he should be welcomed back with open arms. But it went on to float the idea of an elected party treasurer. The Tory leadership yesterday crushed a move by John Stafford, the chairman of the Conservative Campaign for Democracy, for the treasurer to be elected by party members rather than appointed by the leader.

If Mr. Ashcroft returned, the editorial said: That would only leave the question of whether or not the treasurer really should be appointed, not elected, open, but at least that question has no bearing on Mr. Ashcroft personally.

A spokesperson for the Tory Reform Group, which campaigns for One Nation Conservatism and is one of the largest Tory groupings, said: We have taken considerable soundings. It is the majority view of our members that Micheal Ashcroft should resign.

Meanwhile it emerged that Mr. Ashcroft had blocked the release of a Drug Enforcement Administration document which refers to his name and businesses. An application was made The Guardian newspaper under America's Freedom of Information Act. The DEA said it would release the document only if Mr. Ashcroft gave his consent, which he refused to do. It appears that Mr. Ashcroft has also not exercised his right to obtain the document for the benefit of his legal team.
Let's not also forget:

Quote:Tuesday, January 20, 1998 Published at 18:49 GMT

UK: Politics

Hague will hand back foreign money

[Image: _49171_paper.jpg]

The allegations were published in the family-owned Oriental Daily News
The Conservative leader William Hague has promised to hand back any party donations found to be illegal.

Mr Hague has dismissed the fuss over claims that the party received £1m from a Hong Kong businessman Ma Sik-chun, who is alleged to have links to drugs gangs. He has refused to discuss the specifics of the case.

[Image: _49171_hague.jpg]
William Hague toured a London brewery as the controversy grew

"When I became leader of the party I made it absolutely clear we are not accepting any foreign money in future," said Mr Hague.

"I am very glad I made that announcement. That is absolutely what we are going to stick to," he continued.

Opponents are seeking to capitalise on the allegation that the Conservative Party received a £1m donation from Ma Sik-chun, who has been charged with drug trafficking.

Payment 'for return to Hong Kong'

The accusation was reported in the Hong Kong-based Oriental Daily News, which the Ma family owns.

According to the paper, the payment was made in June 1994 in an effort to smooth Ma's return to Hong Kong from Taiwan, where he has lived as a fugitive since 1978.

Labour has seized on the allegations. The Scottish Office Minister Brian Wilson, speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One, said he was far from satisfied by Mr Hague's assurances.

"I don't think it's even a very good try," said Mr Wilson. "There's a lot of people who would like to draw lines under their dubious financial past. The legal system doesn't allow them to do that and I don't think the political system should either."

"The money should be given back," he continued. "If William Hague seriously believes he can get away with saying `Well look, this all happened an immensely long time ago' - three or four years ago - then I think he's deceiving himself."

Labour's own funding has been a source of embarrassment recently when it emerged that the party received - and later returned - a £1m donation from motor racing boss Bernie Ecclestone.

The government later gave a temporary exemption to Formula 1 from a proposed tobacco advertising ban.

Dinner at Downing Street

[Image: _49171_major.jpg]
The paper printed a picture of John Major meeting Ma Ching-kwan at Downing Street

The Hong Kong report said three months after the donation was made, Ma Ching-kwan, Mr Ma's son, was invited to dine with then Prime Minister John Major at Downing Street. The Oriental Daily News published a copy of the invitation and menu.

Ma Sik-chun fled to Taiwan after being charged in connection with one of Asia's largest drug-trafficking operations.

A year earlier, in 1977, his brother Ma Sik-yu - known in Hong Kong as "White Powder Ma" - took the same route after being tipped off that the police were about to arrest him on similar charges.

The Ma family denies both charges.

In the Oriental Daily News, the family said they had asked for the return of the money last April and they reproduced a numbered receipt from Tory Central Office in Westminster acknowledging receipt of the donation.

The allegation will stir memories of the embarrassment the Conservatives had to endure when it emerged that they had accepted a £440,000 donation from Asil Nadir, the fugitive Polly Peck tycoon.

Skinner calls for charity donation

In the House of Commons there was a general feeling that the money should be given back but Labour's Dennis Skinner said it would be unwise to return the cash to a suspected drug dealer.

The MP for Bolsover said that the work of people like Keith Hellawell, Britain's Anti-Drug Chief was made "10 times more difficult in terms of controlling drug abuse and trying to educate the young people in Britain when we now know - as I forecast three months ago in this House - that Ma Ching-kwan handed over £1m to the Tory Party."

Mr Skinner said: "He comes from a family of recognised heroin dealers in Hong Kong. They did it because they wanted the father who had escaped to Taiwan to be brought back to Hong Kong. They used the offices of David Mellor and of Chris Patten. They handed over the money in the presence of the last Prime Minister."

"Now that they have got the money, isn't there an additional argument that when people say `hand the money back', I'm not so sure it's the brightest of ideas because they would be handing the money back to a well-known drug dealer. It ought to go to charity."

It's so nice to know how our revered leaders raise a crust for "the starving of the parties"...
Ah.... it all comes back to me now. Yes, I hope that comes back to haunt them too. Not that Nulabor deserve any more time at the trough either. They should be in adjoining cells. :withstupid:
Oh dear.

And - please note - Herr Cameron is pleased that his greedy Lordshit had decided to clarify his position - as if Cameron wasn't aware of it all along. But Lord Greediness signals that his pocket stuffing habits are not going to change, unless the, er, law changes. After all, why should he pay tax in dear old Blighty when he's busy laundering drug money in Belize tax free?

Tax, don't you know, is for the poor.

Quote:Ashcroft admits 'non-dom' status
Conservative donor and deputy party chairman Lord Ashcroft has admitted he is "non-domiciled" in the UK for tax.

His statement came after years of questions from opposition parties about his tax status.

He said he agreed with Tory leader David Cameron's call for anyone in the Lords to be "resident and domiciled".

Lord Ashcroft said he expected "to be sitting in the House of Lords for many years", suggesting he would change his tax status if the law changed.

The Tory leader said he was "pleased" that Lord Ashcroft had decided to clarify his position.

A "non-dom" is someone who is resident in the UK but not domiciled in the UK for tax purposes - although they will pay some UK tax they will not be fully taxed in the UK on their interests overseas.

'Not a condition'

It had been suggested that when William Hague proposed him for a peerage in 2000 the then Michael Ashcroft had given assurances that he would be resident in Britain for tax purposes.

But in his statement Lord Ashcroft said his undertaking was to "take up permanent residence in the UK again" by the end of that year and to resign as Belize's permanent representative to the UN.

He said he had fulfilled both those conditions before taking up his peerage and had declared all his UK income to HM Revenue "throughout the last ten years".

“ It is clear, therefore, that Lord Ashcroft has the same status as several Labour donors ”
Conservative Party spokesman
Lord Ashcroft has donated more than £4million to the Conservatives in recent years, much of which has been spent on campaigns by Tory candidates in marginal seats.

He, and senior Conservative Party spokesmen, have refused to say what his tax status was over recent years, saying it was a private matter.

In a statement released on Monday, he said he had chosen to speak out because "while I value my privacy, I do not want my affairs to distract from the general election campaign".

He said that while his "precise tax status" was that of a "non-dom", paying tax in the UK was not, as some critics have suggested, a condition of his being granted a peerage in 2000.

"As for the future, while the non-dom status will continue for many people in business or public life, David Cameron has said that anyone sitting in the legislature - Lords or Commons - must be treated as resident and domiciled in the UK for tax purposes," he said.

"I agree with this change and expect to be sitting in the House of Lords for many years to come."

Mr Cameron had been under considerable pressure to reveal Lord Ashcroft's tax status, but had always insisted it was a private matter for the peer.

Welcoming Lord Ashcroft's statement on Monday, a Conservative Party spokesman said: "It is clear, therefore, that Lord Ashcroft has the same status as several Labour donors including Lord Paul - recently appointed to the Privy Council on the recommendation of Gordon Brown's government."


Lord Ashcroft was initially rejected for a peerage in 1999 by the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee on the grounds that he spent most of his time abroad in Belize and Florida and conducted almost all of his financial matters overseas.

His company Bearwood Corporate Services Limited has been the largest single contributor to the Tories since 2005, although his millions make up less than 5% of their total donations.

For a company to make a donation, it must be trading in the UK and in February 2009, the Electoral Commission launched a formal investigation to determine whether this was the case.

The results of that inquiry have not yet been made public.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has called for the full details of Lord Ashcroft's status to be made public and criticised "evasive and obfuscatory" replies given by senior politicians on the subject.
Hmmmm - is that the sound of Pipsqueak Tory fixer William Hague covering his ass...

Quote:Hague only found out about Ashcroft tax deal a few months ago

William Hague says he has only been aware of the Tory deputy chairman's tax status for the last few months and 'was keen to support him in making his position public'

William Hague only found out a few months ago that the multimillionaire Tory donor Lord Ashcroft had renegotiated the terms under which took up his place in the House of Lords, the former Conservative leader revealed today.

In an interview for BBC Radio 4's World Tonight programme, Hague said he only recently discovered the terms of the arrangement that allowed Ashcroft to remain a "non-dom" for tax purposes.

Listen to Hague on the World Tonight here Link to this audio In 2000 Hague suggested that Ashcroft would become a full UK taxpayer when he took his seat in the Lords. But this week Ashcroft revealed that he has been a non-dom for the last 10 years, after a deal was agreed at the time his peerage was awarded.

In the Radio 4 debate, Hague was asked if the "first he had known" of the arrangement was when Ashcroft revealed it on Monday.

Hague said: "Well I knew in advance of that." Robin Lustig, the presenter, pressed Hague on exactly when he had found out. Hague replied: "Over the last few months I knew about that and of course I was keen to support him then in making his position public."

In 2000 Ashcroft offered Hague, who was then Tory leader, a "clear and unequivocal" assurance that if Ashcroft was granted a peerage he would be a permanent resident in the UK by the end of that year. That letter was passed to the House of Lords appointments committee, which was scrutinising his nomination.

Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, was speaking during a debate at Chatham House organised by the World Tonight with the foreign secretary, David Miliband, and the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Ed Davey. After the debate Hague left last and by the back door, to avoid reporters gathered outside.

Speaking immediately after the debate, Davey told the Guardian: "There are two questions we now need to know. How long is a few months? Because he has been going round on the record defending Ashcroft's status and secondly, when and what visits were made with, and paid for by, Ashcroft."

Earlier today Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, called on David Cameron to sack Hague or Ashcroft because they could not both be right in relation to what they had said about the promises made when the Tory deputy chairman received his peerage.

Harman, who was standing in for Gordon Brown during prime minister's questions, asked Hague what had happened to the extra taxes that had been promised.

"The shadow foreign secretary stands here without a shred of credibility," Harman said.

Insisting Hague and Ashcroft could not "both be right", she added: "One of them must go."

In the Commons Hague, who was standing in for David Cameron, accused Labour of being in a "desperate panic".

He also attacked Labour's record on party funding, telling her: "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

Hague became central to the row after the Guardian published details of letters between him and then prime minister Tony Blair from 1999 and 2000.

In a letter following the political honours committee's 1999 refusal of Ashcroft's nomination for a peerage, Hague acknowledged that one reason for their decision was that "Mr Ashcroft was a tax exile".

He confirmed that Ashcroft was "non-resident for tax purposes" but told Blair: "He is committed to becoming resident ... This decision will cost him (and benefit the Treasury) tens of millions a year in tax yet he considers it worthwhile."

Electoral Commission records suggest that the Conservatives continued to enjoy gifts from Ashcroft until December last year.

In the last three months of last year Ashcroft donated, via Flying Lion LTD a company he owns which is based in Bermuda, three separate trips: a £5,097.98 visit to the US, £4,558.90 for a visit to Doha and a £10,736.50 trip to China and Hong Kong.

All three donations were made to Conservative Central Office, but it is not clear who in the party's headquarters enjoyed Ashcroft's hospitality.

He also donated another £80,987 via Bearwood Corporate Services, a British-based company he owns, which is currently under investigation by the Electoral Commission, which is attempting to establish whether it was in fact operating as a fully fledged company at the time of the donations.
Pork pies. It is on the record that since at least 1999 Hague has known of the nom-dom status. He should get his story straight before going on record again to contradict himself. They must really love this Ashcroft bloke. Seems a real creep to me. More of a liability than an asset but an asset he must be or why all the contortions?
It never ceases to amaze just how cheap our pols are. It's not as though they are tough negotiators with the Lord Crims of the world, and intent on getting a fair shake of the bounty.

They'll bend over and smile for a few shillings.
Does anyone know what is meant when Ashcroft proclaims:

Quote:the peer will stand down from frontline politics after the election.?

When, exactly, is "after" the election? Is that a similar timescale, as for example, when he committed to becoming a UK resident for tax purposes 10 years ago - and still isn't?

And what does it mean "from frontline politics"? Will he simply continue to fund pols to keep his "alleged" drug money laundering operation intact from the depths of "deep politics"?

Quote: War! Tories battle over Ashcroft
Senior Cameron aides at loggerheads as bungled handling of the peer's tax status hits electoral chances

By Jane Merrick, Political Editor
Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Lord Ashcroft affair is causing deep divisions at the heart of David Cameron's inner circle, as it emerged that the man in charge of the Conservative election campaign has had a decade-long bitter feud with the controversial Tory donor and peer.

George Bridges, who was put in charge of the day-to-day running of the campaign last week, is among at least three close Cameron aides to express concern in recent months that the mystery surrounding Lord Ashcroft's tax status had not been cleared up.

The peer, who is running the Tories' strategy to win marginal seats, has previously accused Mr Bridges of contributing to a "venomous" newspaper campaign over his party donations.

In turn, Mr Bridges, along with Steve Hilton, Mr Cameron's director of strategy, and his chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, are understood to have warned the leader that the party needed to force the Lord Ashcroft issue into the open.

In a desperate attempt to move on following Lord Ashcroft's admission last week that he is a "non-dom", it emerged yesterday that the peer will stand down from frontline politics after the election. Yet critics will point out that the millions of pounds Lord Ashcroft has used to fight in Labour and Lib Dem marginal constituencies will already have been spent.

Mr Cameron himself told aides three years ago that the party needed to end its "dependency" on one man – the Belize-based businessman.

There were fresh questions last night for William Hague, the Tory foreign affairs spokesman, over when he knew Lord Ashcroft was a "non-dom". Mr Hague, who secured the peerage in 2000 when he was party leader, said last week he knew "over the last few months". However, this form of words left room for doubt. But yesterday Sir Hayden Phillips, the senior mandarin involved in agreeing Lord Ashcroft's residency status, suggested that Mr Hague may have known back in 2000.

In a written statement given to Mr Hague as a condition of the peerage, the businessman gave a "clear and unequivocal assurance" that he would take up permanent residence in the UK by the end of 2000. But it emerged last week that a subsequent agreement promised only that he would become a "long-term" resident – which permitted him to claim "non-domiciled" status for tax purposes. Sir Hayden told Radio 4's Today programme: "Both the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee and the Conservative leadership at the time agreed with those words."

A spokesman for Mr Hague said the MP was "aware that the precise definition of Lord Ashcroft's undertaking would be settled with the committee and government officials, but he was not aware of the details of what was subsequently agreed".

In a further twist, authoritative sources told The Independent on Sunday that at the time the peerage was confirmed, senior Tory officials referred to the appointment as the "million-pound peerage". While there is no suggestion that Lord Ashcroft bought the peerage, the comments by some party members show the extent of his influence over the then leader and his cash-strapped party. However, a Tory insider said: "A peerage is a useful business tool on the international scene. It was cheap at half the price."

Electoral Commission figures on party donations date back only to 2001. But Lord Ashcroft, in his autobiography, Dirty Politics, Dirty Times, says that in the period of 1999-2000 he was donating "fractionally under £1m per year" to the Conservative Party.

Lord Ashcroft's spokesman said it was "ridiculous" to suggest there was any such deal and to do so was to further suggest a "conspiracy to commit a criminal offence". He added: "I never heard that ['million-pound'] phrase being used before."

Mr Hague denied that the peerage had been bought in any way.

There were continuing questions regarding Mr Cameron's comments over the past three years on the Ashcroft issue. On 2 December 2007, the Tory leader said: "I have had reassurances... that [he] is resident in the UK and pays taxes in the UK." But the next day Mr Cameron was less clear-cut, saying: "How he pays tax... is a matter that you should put to him."

Mr Cameron's spokeswoman refused to comment, but his office has said he discovered Lord Ashcroft's non-dom status a month ago.

In his memoir, Lord Ashcroft accused Mr Bridges, who in 1999 was a leader writer at The Times, of being "openly hostile" to him and Mr Hague, and of contributing to what the peer described as the newspaper's "Get Ashcroft Campaign". Mr Bridges, Lord Ashcroft claimed, formed an alliance with Lord Cranborne – now Lord Salisbury – who was allegedly bitter over being sacked by Mr Hague as Tory leader of the House of Lords.

"The Cranborne-Bridges alliance quickly appreciated that The Times could be a useful vehicle for their personal venom against William and me," Lord Ashcroft wrote.

A spokesman for Lord Ashcroft said: "We are talking about a period 10 years ago. The book was written around seven or eight years ago. It is fair to say they [Bridges and Ashcroft] get on very well now." Mr Bridges was unavailable for comment.

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said: "The culture of concealment goes to the top of the Tory party. David Cameron took hard cash without asking the hard questions."

A ten-year mystery unravelled

March 2000 The Political Honours Scrutiny Committee rejects the Conservatives' nomination of Michael Ashcroft for a peerage for the second time.

March 2000 Ashcroft makes a pledge to William Hague that he will take up permanent residence in Britain "before the end of this calendar year" and the peerage is granted.

December 2005 New Tory leader David Cameron appoints Ashcroft as deputy chairman.

October 2007 Labour MPs accuse Ashcroft of being allowed to heavily fund local Conservative organisations in marginal seats and the Electoral Commission is asked to investigate.

2 December 2007 Cameron says he is "satisfied that the undertakings [Ashcroft] gave are being met and I have had reassurances... that [he] is resident in the UK and pays taxes in the UK."

3 December 2007 Cameron says: "I have sought reassurances that the guarantees he made at the time are being met and they are being met. How he pays tax... is a matter that you should put to him."

1 March 2010 After pressure to reveal his tax status by the Information Commissioner, Ashcroft admits he is a "non-dom". It emerges that he reached agreement with the Cabinet Office in 2000 that he could be known as a "long-term" resident rather than "permanent resident" – allowing him "non-dom" status.

3 March Hague says he knew about Ashcroft's non-dom status "over the last few months".

4 March Liam Fox, the Tory defence spokesman, says Cameron found out about Ashcroft's non-dom status only a month ago.

4 March Electoral Commission rules that £5.1m of donations to the Conservative Party from a firm owned by Ashcroft were legal.

Paul Bignell
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