Britain’s Rich List… Feat: Lakshmi Mittal……

14 Jan

‘A personal assessment by Stephen P. Walker’

 

Lakshmi Mittal is the fifth richest man in the world.  His current personal fortune is estimated to be $19 billion, $10 billion less than in the previous year.  He is known primarily for his steel empire but also holds a 20% stake in Queens Park Rangers football club, the quintessential accessory for any billionaire……

Non-Domicile Tax Avoidance……

Despite owning three properties in Kensington, valued at £500m, Lakshmi Mittal is considered non-domicile, does not hold a UK passport and retains his Indian citizenship.  This allowed him to pay no tax in the UK on the £393.9m dividend from his company.  To be considered non-domicile a person cannot spend more than an average of 91 days in the country, this does not include the day of arrival and departure.  Although completely legal, David Cameron has described tax avoidance as ‘immoral’ but seems to have dedicated little time or resources to put an end to the practice, preferring to penalise pensioners, those with disabilities and the ‘shikers & scivers’  who, apparently, live a luxurious lifestyle on benefit payments at a huge cost to the ‘hard pressed, decent’ working tax payers……

Liberal Democrat spokesman Vince Cable said: “I take a fairly hard line on this whole issue.  “I think it’s a scandal that long-standing residents are able to take advantage of loopholes in the non-domicile rules to avoid paying tax”. ……

Criticism and Allegations……

Mittal employed the services of Marek Dochnal to influence Polish officials with regard to the privatisation of PHS, Poland’s largest steel group.  Dochnal was subsequently arrested for bribing Polish officials on behalf of Russian agents in relation to a separate matter.

In 2007, the Polish Government expressed its desire to re-negotiate the 2004 sale [of PHS] to Arcelor Mittal……

Allegations of slave labour and a questionable safety record in some of Mittal’s mines have been raised.  In December 2004, twenty-three miners were killed in mines in Kazakhstan due to faulty and poorly maintained gas safety monitors……

The ‘Cash for Influence’ Affair…….

 

In 2002, while Labour were still in government, MP Alan Price obtained a letter, written by Tony Blair to the Romaniancash-in-an-envelope Government supporting Mittal’s LNM steel company, which was bidding to purchase the Romanian state owned steel industry.  This caused some controversy as Mittal had made a donation of £125,000 to the Labour Party in the previous year.  Blair defended the letter, stating that it was simply ‘Celebrating the success of a British Company’.  However, LNM was registered in the Dutch Antilles and employed less than 1% of its workforce in the UK.  It has been suggested that the LNM deal would help ‘smooth out the way’ for Romania’s entry to the European Union……

It would be unfair to suggest that the £125,000 donation influenced the Prime Ministers decision to write the letter but it does not send out the right message to the public, that the ‘friendships’ between large multi-national companies and top politicians and civil servants are completely transparent…….

Hazmat_SuitLakshmi Mittal has also faced criticism over the steel plant in Cork, Ireland, which he was able to buy at the knock down price of £1m.  Three years later it was closed, leading to the loss of 400 jobs and environmental contamination at the site, which is estimated to cost £58m to clean up.  The Government attempted to have Mittal clean up the site by bringing a case to the High Court which ruled in favour of Mittal……

The fate of the French steel plants, which the government wished to nationalise, is still under review……

To Summarise……

Lakshmi Mittal’s business interests and the closeness of Mittal to some senior politicians, gives the public the impression that money can still buy you influence in our ‘democracy’ and certainly access to politicians which you or I could not get.  His duty of care to his workforce is particularly alarming and it is only in a country which gives little consideration to the safety of workers that unsafe practices are allowed to continue, unabated.  When added to the Mittal Empire’s a tax arrangement it leaves a nasty taste in ones mouth……

My own MP, Karl McCartney described the ’38 Degrees’ lobbying web organisation as ‘utterly deluded left wing propaganda’.  A position he does not take on the professional lobbyists in the corridors of power……

Sources:  The Daily Mail – Forbes – The Telegraph – Reuters – Wikipedia……

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