Conservative peer Lord Deighton, the government’s personal protective equipment (PPE) czar at the height of the pandemic, has not disclosed the secret offshore investments that appear in the Pandora papers leak.
Former Commercial Secretary to the Treasury and Managing Director of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog), Deighton had said his investments were all in a blind trust.
However, the offshore leak reveals how Deighton and his wife, Alison, invested in a slew of undeclared startups through funds based in the British Virgin Islands and managed by venture capital group Dawn Capital.
The couple’s holdings included a stake acquired directly by Deighton, and four by his wife, in five startups between 2011 and 2013. One investment Deighton had previously hidden from the public was Lady Deighton’s stake in the controversial former lending company. Wonga salary.
Their previously secret holdings may come to light as Dawn Capital’s investment records are part of Pandora’s documents. Deighton, who served as Treasurer between 2013 and 2015, did not declare any holdings in the House of Lords register at the time – while his separate ministerial statement simply stated that his financial interests were held in a ” blind trust ”.
A blind trust is a way to hold investments so that the owner has no involvement in investment decisions. This entry, however, appears to have been incorrect.
Lord O’Neill, who was Deighton’s immediate successor in the role of Treasury, had similar investments with Dawn Capital. He told the Guardian that on becoming a minister, the Cabinet Office advised him to set up a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest. Pandora Diaries confirm that O’Neill made this decision.
However, the same share records suggest that Deighton and his wife retained direct control of offshore holdings, contradicting disclosures of financial interests he made as minister. Wonga would have been the most embarrassing of these holdings at the time.
The company not only turned out to be a bad financial investment, but was also accused, along with its rivals, of attempting to start multi-million pound businesses by preying on financially vulnerable people.
In 2014, while Lady Deighton was a shareholder and her husband Minister of the Treasury, Wonga agreed to pay over £ 2.6million in compensation to approximately 45,000 clients for unfair and deceptive debt collection practices, to following an agreement with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The FCA is the UK’s financial regulator, which is accountable to the Treasury and Parliament.
In 2015, Wonga and other payday lenders were the subject of an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which recommended further examination of the industry.
Deighton did not respond to 15 separate attempts by the Guardian to contact him for comment.
O’Neill said, “If it’s [Wonga] that you found such an exciting part of the story, it was a bad mistake in judgment and I was glad that it fell apart.
The ministerial code states: “Ministers must provide their permanent secretary with a complete written list of all interests that could give rise to a conflict. The list should also cover the interests of the minister’s spouse or partner and close family that could be considered as potentially conflicting.
He adds: “Ministers must scrupulously avoid any risk of real or perceived conflict of interest between their ministerial position and their private financial interests. They should be guided by the general principle that they should either dispose of the interest that gave rise to the conflict or take alternative measures to prevent it. In making their decision, they must be guided by the advice given to them by their permanent secretary and the independent advisor on the interests of ministers.