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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 June 2006

Arise...Sir tax-avoider!

BEING KNIGHTED in the honours list isn't quite such a big thing as becoming a Lord but it's obviously got some attractions for billionaire businessmen.

Philip Green got his gong recently though he's been a millionaire since he was 33 and he's now 54. The owner of Arcadia Group which includes British Home Stores and Burton's is Britain's fourth richest man. He has been accused of using cheap labour to boost his companies' profits.

Green gave Arcadia shareholders a 1.3 billion dividend last year and as he and his wife own 92% of the group, they got 1.17 billion. That's the biggest amount ever paid out to one person in British corporate history and he paid no tax on it, as his family lives in Monaco part-time with a 20 million yacht and a 16 million private jet.

He's not the first tax avoider to become a Sir. Hans Rausing, the $8 billion founder of a plastic carton company, was given a knighthood - for philanthropy! - in January although his philanthropy doesn't extend to paying taxes.

Blair's government also rewards senior figures in US big business and the military. Riley Bechtel, boss of US-based Bechtel Corporation and 50th richest in the USA, was secretly awarded a CBE back in 2003, according to The Observer.

Bechtel not only has rich pickings from privatisation in Britain's transport (tubes, Crosslink, tram services etc) and nuclear industries. It also won a huge 430 million contract to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq after the US government wrecked it in 2003. Then just a week later, Riley Bechtel, a Bush backer, got his secret gong.

Of course, Blair and Co don't just award people who make fortunes out of a deadly war. They also rewarded people like General Tommy Franks for his role in devising the battle plan for the 2003 invasion, and numerous other top brass. It's another touching example of the special relationship that Blair has built up, with Bush and with billionaires.

 

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In The Socialist 22 June 2006:


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