IRISH frontman Bono has released a statement saying he is “extremely distressed” by leaked documents linking him to an alleged tax avoidance scheme.
The U2 singer, whose real name is Paul David Hewson, spoke out after the so-called Paradise Papers revealed he owns a stake in a Maltese company that is under investigation for allegedly dodging tax.
Vocal philanthropist Mr Hewson used Maltese firm Nude Estates Ltd to pay for a share in a shopping centre in a small town in Lithuania, according to the documents.
The company bought the mall for €5.8 million in 2007, before transferring it in 2012 to a company in Guernsey, where foreign investors regularly pay as little as 5% tax.
Nude Estates is currently subject to a criminal investigation after it allegedly avoided paying £41,500 in local taxes using an unlawful accounting technique.
In a statement released on Monday night, Bono said: “I would be extremely distressed if, even as a passive minority investor in the UAB2 in Lithuania, anything less than exemplary was done with my name anywhere near it.
“I’ve been assured by those running the company that it is fully tax compliant, but if that is not the case I want to know as much as the tax office does, and so I also welcome the audit they have said they will undertake.
“I take this stuff very seriously.
“I have campaigned for the beneficial ownership of offshore companies to be made transparent.
Leaked documents reveal Queen Elizabeth and Bono's major tax avoidance https://t.co/ZgdX6zsFes
— The Irish Post (@theirishpost) November 6, 2017
“Indeed, this is why my name is on documents rather than in a trust.
“The fact is I welcome this reporting. It shouldn’t take leaks to understand what’s going on where.”
He added: “There should be public registries so that the press and public can see what governments, like Guernsey, already know.”
In a separate statement, a spokeswoman for Bono told the Guardian: “Bono was a passive, minority investor in Nude Estates Malta Ltd, a company that was legally registered in Malta until it was voluntarily wound up in 2015.
“Malta is a well-established holding company jurisdiction within the EU.”
Bryan Meehan, who runs Nude Estates Ltd, said he proposed the scheme to Bono over ten years ago.
“As manager of Nude Estates, I approached friends and investors around the world, including Bono, to take a minority investment in the company,” he said.
“Bono’s involvement has been 100% passive and he has not visited any of the locations, nor has he had any involvement in the decision making.”
Sigitas Jautakis, the director of Nude Estates 2, told a Lithuanian newspaper that the company would comply if asked to pay more tax.
“If it is ... determined that we have to pay some profit tax, without accounting for the [shopping centre’s] revaluation, OK,” he said.
“The tax inspectorate hasn’t carried out any inspections or anything, but they should first of all delve deeply into the entire situation.”