Cityscape view of Monaco

Press Review

The tax haven that today's super rich City commuters call home


2006-07-12

Monaco's rules from the steamship age allow UK entrepreneurs to enjoy financial advantages of the Riviera David Leigh Monday July 10, 2006 A new generation of Britain's super-rich are moving to the Riviera to avoid the Inland Revenue, largely thanks to tax loopholes which allow them to commute to work from Monaco.

Such well-known residents as the recently-knighted retailer Philip Green and the Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou have been joined in this tax haven by a new class of astonishingly-wealthy hedge fund managers, property developers and internet entrepreneurs.

The Guardian has traced more than 650 directors of British companies who give their current address as Monaco, and the top 10 residents there with UK interests alone control family assets worth more than £13.5bn.

"It's very commutable. It's as easy as living in Birmingham and working in London," says Roger Munns, who sells £3m-plus apartments to those referred to in the City as "the Monaco boys".

"It's very commutable. It's as easy as living in Birmingham and working in London," says Roger Munns, who sells £3m-plus apartments to those referred to in the City as "the Monaco boys".

His sales territory is a corner of the principality reclaimed from the sea at Fontvieille, where new apartments are christened with reassuringly English estate-agents' nomenclature. The Maseratis and Mercedes convertibles cruise by blocks called "Seaside Plaza", while the rows of London-based yachts in the small harbour have names which tell their own story of modern English attitudes - "Sledge Hammer" and "New Flash".

Around the corner is the Columbus Hotel Monaco , UK-owned, where visiting Britons sit in the bar discussing property prices, personal tax accountants and the relative merits of Monaco schools for their children versus those in the rival tax haven of Guernsey. Most of the snatches of mobile phone conversations overheard on the streets of Fontvieille are in English.

One of Seaside Plaza's key attractions is that it is next to the heliport, where helicopters shuttle British businessmen along the coast to Nice airport in a mere seven minutes.

The crucial tax loophole, dating from the steamship age, allows non-residents 90 days a year in Britain, plus the day of travel out and the day of travel back. This means businessmen can fly in on Monday morning, work four days, fly out on Thursday night, and do this for most weeks in the year without breaking the rules.

One of those involved says: "You can even fly in one day and out the next, and it doesn't count at all, provided you don't do it too often." The tax authorities have also allowed non-residents, since 1993, to keep a UK house without losing their status. Coupled with the laptop and a mobile phone, this makes it easy to run a British business from Monaco.

Traditionally, elderly Britons used to sell up their firms and retire to Monte Carlo with the proceeds, which were free of capital gains tax in return for a minimum of five years residence spent playing golf and lazing in the sun. Many still do this. But now they are being joined by the thirty- and forty-somethings who treat the crowded principality more as a British suburb. There is zero income tax to pay on their dividends, and the Sûreté Publique will hand out a residence permit in return for evidence of a hefty deposit in a Monaco bank, and a willingness to pay sky-high prices for property.

"In the 90s, it was the Russians who turned up here with millions in suitcases", Mr Munns says, "but now the British have taken over. Many are high earners in the City and, of course, it is an attraction that their money is perfectly legitimate." He estimates that up to 40% of the current inquiries to YourMonaco.com, his online agency, are from Britain.

One of the City's richest Monaco commuters is Peter Cruddas (worth £864m), the son of a Smithfield meat porter and founder of internet financial traders CMC. His £10m apartment on the Avenue de Spélugues is one of Monte Carlo's swankiest addresses, just by the famous casino.

It only takes him one hour and 40 minutes to fly to London's City airport in his Cessna Citation.

"I don't want to give the impression I don't work hard. I never stop," he says. Mr Cruddas pays some tax on his UK income, but at a lower rate overall, and does not regard himself as a tax exile.

Another Monaco commuter is John Hargreaves, (worth £650m), the founder of the discount clothes chain Matalan, whose private plane regularly flies him to the company's Skelmersdale headquarters, via Blackpool airport.

Alongside his Dassault Falcon on the Nice tarmac can be seen the Gulfstream G550 of Philip Green (whose family is worth £4.9bn), and a host of other private jets. Sir Philip's enormous yacht, Lionheart, dominates Monaco's main waterfront at Port Hercule, tied up alongside the almost equally large Lady Beatrice, belonging to the semi-retired Barclay brothers, owners of the Daily Telegraph (family trusts worth £1.8bn). Directly overlooking the waterfront is the Shangri-La apartment of the Easyjet founder Sir Stelios, (£727m). Nearby is the residence of the big Tory party donor and conference company tycoon Irvine Laidlaw (£714m).

The tax arrangements are sometimes complex. Lord Laidlaw is reported to have ceased claiming tax exile status since receiving a peerage in 2004. Sir Philip does not claim non-residency, but receives his dividends via his Monaco tax-resident wife Tina. Sir Stelios is of Greek-Cypriot origin, and therefore has privileged "non-domicile" as well as "non-resident" tax status. He says: "I have no UK income to be taxed in the UK."

Last week, the former formula one racing champion and businessman Jody Scheckter (£100m) was on his 2,500-acre Hampshire farm, Laverstoke Park, selling buffalo milk ice-cream and lecturing visitors on the virtues of organic husbandry. He is tax-resident in Monaco.

His farm partnership is run with a Fontvieille resident, Jonathan Dudman, financial manager for the Monaco-registered IMG, which represents many international sportsmen. (Another Dudman client is Sven-Goran Eriksson, for whom he has set up a Monaco company for his international earnings). The Leeds United chairman Ken Bates (£15m) also resides in Monaco.

Another of Dudman's Fontvieille neighbours is the racing driver David Coulthard, who says tax is only part of his reason for living there, along with ease of international travel. He owns the Columbus hotel with a Glasgow hotelier and Seaside Plaza resident Ken McCulloch (£45m). In the next block is another British hotelier, the Tory party donor Firoz Kassam (£250m), who made his fortune from housing benefit claimants and asylum seekers. Colourful figures who commute from Monaco include the Candy Brothers, Nicholas and Christian, who paid themselves £8m in dividends last year from developing luxury London flat interiors for Russian oligarchs. They are now under investigation by HM Revenue and Customs over capital allowance claims.

The financier Andrew Regan was threatened with extradition from Monaco before voluntarily returning to stand trial over claims of bribery in his attempted takeover of the Co-op. He was aquitted and subsequently went into business with the former Mercury Asset Fund manager Matthew Tawse, another resident of the palm-lined Avenue Princess Grace, overlooking the plages. Mr Tawse is a friend of Nigel Robertson,(£50m), founder of the internet information service Scoot.com, who lives in an adjoining block.

Jon Wood, a £20m-a-year UBS trader, is now planning Monaco's first hedge fund, SRM Global this autumn. He was criticised by Mr Justice Warren over a business dispute as a "very hard and calculating man".

Other financiers arriving in Monaco include Jim McColl (£330m), who runs the Glaswegian engineers Clyde Blowers, the Australian-born hedge fund manager Richard Farleigh (£62m) and Dominic Redfern, managing partner of the London hedge fund Altima, which has just purchased a privatised brewery in the Serb enclave of Bosnia.

The wealthiest residents:

  1. Sir Philip Green, retailer, est. family wealth £4.9bn
  2. Simon Reuben, property developer, £3.25bn
  3. Sir David & Fredrick Barclay, Daily Telegraph owners, £1.8bn
  4. Wafic Said, arms deal broker, £1bn
  5. Peter Cruddas, financial trader, £864m
  6. Lord (Irvine) Laidlaw, conference organiser, £730m
  7. Sir Stelios Haji-Ionnaou, Easyjet founder, £727m
  8. John Hargreaves, Matalan retailers, £630m
  9. Sir Michael Smurfit, Packaging group, £274m
  10. Richard Emanuel, mobile phone entrepreneur, £225m


Monaco To Hear Royal Wedding Bells?


2006-06-18

The Sunday Times in London reports that a royal wedding could be just around the corner in Monaco.

THEY never tire of the subject in Monaco: when will Prince Albert settle down and marry? Last week the tiny country's prayers appeared to have been answered as speculation grew that the ruler was on the verge of announcing his long-awaited engagement.

The palace refused to confirm or deny any forthcoming nuptials but, according to reports from the principality, Albert, who recently admitted to having a second illegitimate child, will soon announce he is to take the plunge with Charlene Wittstock, a South African swimmer.

The blonde 28-year-old former breaststroke champion was said to have held a meeting recently with Bernard Barsi, the Archbishop of Monaco, in preparation for the event. She was also said to have selected an engagement ring after shopping at a famous jeweller's with one of the prince's aides.

Wittstock first met Albert, one of Europe's most eligible bachelors, in 2001, when the 48-year-old prince, a former member of Monaco's Olympic bobsleigh team, handed her a bouquet and showed her around the palace overlooking the sea.

The couple set tongues wagging in February this year when they were spotted canoodling at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin. They have since been on romantic holidays and are suing a magazine that photographed them in an embrace on a luxury vessel in the Maldives.

Albert has been linked with more than 100 women, from actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Brooke Shields to supermodels Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell. His failure to marry and produce an heir, however, has been a source of anxiety for the palace, which is anxious to ensure the survival of the centuries-old Grimaldi clan.

Not that there seems much chance of the dynasty dying out: Albert's sisters, the princesses Stephanie and Caroline, have several children between them. Just weeks before his coronation last year, Albert admitted that he had produced an illegitimate son with Nicole Coste, a Togolese air hostess whom he had met on a flight from Paris to Nice.

Under the constitution two-year-old Alexandre will not be allowed to succeed his father as ruler, however, and the same applies to Jazmin Rotolo, the 14-year-old daughter of a Californian waitress who, after protracted negotiations, was recognised as Albert's illegitimate daughter earlier this month.

Alexandre Coste and his mother were installed in a villa down the coast from Monaco and the Rotolos could expect similar privileges: the prince has become one of Europe's wealthiest royals since inheriting a fortune from his father last year and both his children will no doubt be handsomely looked after all their lives.

A recent meeting between Wittstock and one of Princess Grace's former ladies-in-waiting intensified speculation about an engagement, as did an encounter with César Penzo, the palace chaplain.

What is more, she accompanied Albert to the Monaco automobile club's gala evening, a prestigious event at which she was formally introduced to Jean-Paul Proust, Monaco's minister of state. Most Monegasques already hear wedding bells.

For hotels in Monaco , a Monaco map , today's weather in Monaco and tickets and information for the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix visit http://www.yourmonaco.com

The latest Monte Carlo Property is at http://www.monacoproperty.net


Monaco Grand Prix Sale May 2006


2006-05-11

Chassis '4965GT' left the Maranello works on 21 September 1963, destined for the showrooms of renowned prestige motorcar dealer Franco-Britannic Automobiles in Paris for onward delivery to their favoured customer Robert Blouin. At that point it was French-registered '1 HW 49' in the Departement Le Maine-et-Loire. Monsieur Blouin specified Azzurro coachwork (code Italiver 19278M) complemented by contrasting red Connolly leather (VM3171).

Robert Blouin seems to have first campaigned his new Ferrari as early as March 20-21, 1964, competing with race number '107' in the Grand Rallye National de l'Ouest in northern France in this machine. On 17 May Blouin entered and drove this car in the gruelling Grand Prix de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, but failed to finish the event. Just one week later '4965GT' was back in action, this time at Montlhéry for the Prix de Paris, wearing race number '48' but the result is unknown

The following year, on May 9, 1965, Blouin entered and drove the Lusso in its most important event - the 49th annual Targa Florio around the 44-mile Piccolo Madonie circuit near Palermo in Sicily. The car wore race number '116' and Blouin co-drove it with a friend named Sauer. The pair completed the full ten laps and, although not classified, the French team earned the respect and popularity of fellow competitors, as Jess Pourret relates in his definitive book 'Ferrari 250GT Competition Cars': "The Frenchmen Blouin and Sauer drove Blouin's Lusso all the way from Normandy to Sicily to enter the Targa.

At the end, Blouin encountered a gravely wounded competitor and stopped to pick him up and deliver him to the next Red Cross point. This put him out of contention as far as "allowed time" was concerned; nevertheless, he finished that 1965 race.

May 16, 1965, Blouin was back at the wheel at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for the Circuit National's annual GT Championship-qualifying Grand Prix. He was placed either 6th or 16th overall (depending on the source)...either way a very respectable result considering opposition which included Ferrari 250LMs, 250GTOs and 250GTO/64s, the factory Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupes and several Cobra roadsters...

On February 14, 1969, '4965GT' was re-registered in a lady's name at a chic address in a residential quartier in Paris, and it is believed to have remained in her ownership for more than two decades, passing to Ralph Bruggmann of Gstaad, Switzerland and competing in the 1998 Tour Auto retrospective. It was acquired soon afterwards by well-known French enthusiast Olivier Cazalières, running at the Monza round of the Shell Ferrari Maserati Challenge in 2000 and the Le Mans Classic before finally joining the present owner's collection, so its eligibility for the most exclusive historic events is beyond doubt.

Other entries so far received include a 1994 Bugatti EB110 (EURO 220,000 - 240,000), a 1975 Lancia Stratos Marlboro Competition Coupé (EURO 140,000 - 180,000), a 1947 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500SS Cabriolet (EURO 100,000 - 140,000) and the ex-JCB 1965 Lotus 30 Series 2 (EURO 180,000 - 215,000).

The Sale also includes an extensive selection of Automobilia and will be held at the Musée Automobile de la Collection de S.A.S, Le Prince de Monaco on Saturday 20th May 2006.


Monaco's royals open new hotel


2005-10-12

Monaco's Prince Albert and Princesses Caroline and Stephanie opened Monte Carlo's first newly built hotel in 80 years at the weekend.

Carefully planned in an L-shape to take maximum advantage of sea views for its more than 300 rooms, Monte Carlo's sophisticated new venue offers a lagoon, waterfalls, myriad spa treatments and a glass-domed swimming pool within a neo-classical design.

The idea has been to recapture the environment of the 1920s, when artists, writers and celebrities flocked to the French Riviera.

Champagne and fireworks were enjoyed by guests at the evening launch of the new complex, which has been developed by the Societe des Bains de Mer (SBM) company.

SBM - in which the Grimaldi royals hold a majority stake - owns many of the top restaurants, clubs and casinos in Monaco.

Monaco loses some of it magic


2005-09-01

Liverpool won the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco at the Stade Louis II on Friday 26 August, coming back from a goal down to beat CSKA Moscow 3-1 after extra time.

But while Monaco's night sky reverberated to the famous Liverpool anthem of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' there were rumblings of discontent from some Liverpool supporters that the Monaco authorities had treated them badly.

Are the Liverpool supporters right, or did Monaco police the match correctly?

Larry Moran, a Liverpool supporter, had this to say on http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/

LIVERPOOL'S third Super Cup victory in Monaco seemed to confound the pre-match predictions.

A supposed 'non-event', the 'Euro Community Shield' ended up as a sell-out - mostly Russian it has to be said, but with many thousands of Reds.

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