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Analysis

Wealthy Elites Named in Offshore Tax Haven Leaks are Funders of BC’s Anti-Electoral Reform Campaign

Wealthy BC Liberal donors named in the Panama Papers are fighting to maintain the status quo in British Columbia

The campaign opposing electoral reform in British Columbia received funds from wealthy BC Liberal donors named in high-profile offshore tax haven leaks.

Financial disclosures from the No BC Proportional Representation Society have already shown BC’s entrenched interests are spending big money bankrolling the campaign to stop proportional representation – including business lobbyists, real estate moguls and other wealthy urban elites.

Now the No campaign’s latest filings reveal that list also includes individuals whose names are connected to the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers.

The names of investor Robert Disbrow and mining executive Walter Segsworth, who made top-tier donations to the No campaign this fall, both appear in an offshore tax haven database run by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The database, which has tracked individuals and companies named in offshore leaks since 2013, includes a disclaimer noting that those named in the leaks have not necessarily broken any laws or “otherwise acted improperly,” although both sources for the Panama and Paradise leaks were law firms known for aggressive offshore tax planning.

Disbrow, a former executive of the investment firm Haywood Securities, is named in the tax havens database as a shareholder of Kola Gold Limited, a firm registered in the British Virgin Islands. Haywood Securities, a major corporate donor that gave $333,000 to the BC Liberals between 2005 and 2015, is also listed as a shareholder of Kola Gold.

The British Virgin Islands have a 0% tax rate on income and capital gains, and is widely recognized as an international tax haven where individuals and corporations can route money through shell companies or hide assets from revenue agencies.

Disbrow admitted he was a shareholder of the shell company, but expressed surprise to Business in Vancouver in 2016 when he was asked how his name ended up in the Panama Papers.

His company, Haywood Securities, also admitted it was connected to offshore shell companies, but stressed its offshore dealings were lawful.

Meanwhile, fellow No campaign donor Walter Segsworth was identified in the Paradise Papers as a former director of multiple shell companies based in Bermuda.

According to the ICIJ’s database, Segsworth was the former director and president of Argentina Gold I Ltd. and Argentina Gold II Ltd., which both enjoy a 0% tax rate since they are registered in Bermuda.

Segsworth, who gave the BC Liberals $5,000 over the last decade, is also a former independent non-executive director of Taung Gold International Ltd, a company that is registered in Bermuda as well.

Segsworth could not be reached for comment.

In total, the leaked tax data lists nearly 600 individuals and businesses linked to addresses in Vancouver.

Other BC Liberal donors listed on the offshore database include:

Although the CEOs of some of these companies have also been vocally opposed to proportional representation, there is a significant body of evidence showing that pro-rep leads to stronger and more stable economies.

A first-past-the-post voting system, on the other hand, is used by seven of the top 10 countries worst affected by tax avoidance.

 

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