Super-wealthy subsidised by the taxpayer: Saudi royals, billionaire tax exiles, and the Qatari owners of Harrods are among those who have claimed millions of pounds under the furlough scheme, investigation reveals
- Wealthy owners made ‘obscene’ claims for taxpayers’ cash for staff sent home
- Cost of the scheme is set to hit £66billion when it comes to an end in September
- Recipients include Qatari owners of Harrods and the Ritz who claimed £3million
Billionaire tax exiles, an oil-rich nation and Saudi royals have claimed millions of pounds under the furlough scheme, an investigation reveals.
The super-rich owners made the ‘obscene’ claims for taxpayers’ cash for staff who were sent home after their businesses, which include the Ritz Hotel and Harrods department stores, were closed under coronavirus restrictions.
The cost of the scheme is set to hit £66bn when it comes to an end in September, helping push the UK’s national debt well over £2trillion.
Dubai’s government and its ruler Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum have claimed for a ‘six-star’ concierge service for VIPs
Jim Ratcliffe (left), the owner of chemicals company Ineos, and billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed (right) are among the tax exiles
The recipients include the Qatari owners of Harrods and the Ritz, who claimed £3million in December alone, and members of the Saudi royal family received up to £55,000, according to the Guardian.
Tax exiles Jim Ratcliffe, the owner of chemicals company Ineos, and private equity tycoon Guy Hands also own companies that claimed under the scheme, as did billionaires Evgeny Lebedev, Len Blavatnik and Mohamed Al Fayed.
Dubai’s government and its ruler Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum have also claimed for a ‘six-star’ concierge service for VIPs.
The list, drawn from Government disclosures on the 750,000 businesses using the scheme in December 2020, has sparked fury amongst MPs who accused ministers of scattering public money ‘like confetti’.
Others argued the extremely wealthy could afford to pay their own staff, rather than turn to the coronavirus jobs retention scheme (CJRS).
It comes after Tony and Cherie Blair were found to be claiming under the scheme, alongside golf courses owned by Donald Trump, model Cara Delevingne, Jamie Oliver Group and Samantha Cameron’s fashion brand Cefinn.
Several businesses including Asos, Halfords and sofa retailer Dunelm have been praised for paying back furlough after doing better than they expected in the pandemic.
But the jobs retention scheme has been widely lauded for protecting jobs and stopping mass unemployment, which could have sent the UK into a lengthy depression.
Tax campaigner Margaret Hodge MP said: ‘It’s irresponsible scattering public money like confetti.
‘The government is resisting giving free school meals to children and an appropriate pay rise for nurses. In that context, that seems obscene.’
The Lib Dem’s Sarah Olney MP said: ‘The furlough scheme has been the vital lifeline that millions of businesses and workers needed to get through multiple lockdowns – but the spirit of furlough is that it offers a blanket to those who would struggle without taxpayers’ help.
‘Businesses bankrolled by royalty or billionaire owners clearly are better able to cope than most.
‘It seems only fair that they take on their fair share of the emergency costs of this pandemic.’
The British National party, which is led by Adam Walker, has also claimed under the scheme
The recipients include the Qatari owners of Harrods and the Ritz, who claimed £3million in December alone
It comes after Tony and Cherie Blair were found to be claiming under the scheme, alongside golf courses owned by Donald Trump, model Cara Delevingne, Jamie Oliver Group and Samantha Cameron’s fashion brand Cefinn
The largest recipients of the furlough scheme are the hospitality sector, particularly large pub groups such as Wetherspoons, and the retail sector, including Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia before it went bust.
In response to the story, Guy Hands said: ‘Without government support, I would have had no option but to close Hand Picked Hotels.
‘I have put £28 million into the business, which has lost £18.5 million since last March.
‘The furlough scheme has helped protect the jobs of 700 people.’ The Saudi embassy said they were ‘legitimate claims’.
The other claimants did not respond to a request for comment.
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