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    Issa brothers admit “error” in evidence to MPs over offshore ownership structure

    Zuber and Mohsin Issa

    The billionaire Issa brothers have admitted submitting error-strewn evidence to MPs about the complex offshore ownership structure known as ‘Bellis’ that they created for Asda after acquiring the supermarket in 2021, state recent reports.

    After facing questions by MPs on the Business and Trade Committee over his management of Asda, Mohsin Issa wrote a letter to the committee in which he sought to clarify its corporate structure, setting out a list of 24 companies that were connected to the supermarket, The Standard reported on Friday (27).

    The letter contained multiple inaccuracies as to whether companies were located in offshore tax havens, as well as inconsistencies as to the expressed purpose of different holding companies and omissions on other businesses within the corporate structure.

    The letter to MPs suggests that three companies— Asda Group, Asda Stores and McLagan Investments — are domiciled in Jersey, when they are in fact domiciled in the UK.

    It also suggests the purpose of one of the entities, called ‘Phantom Investments 2’, was for investment into Wagestream, a payment platform, when investment into the British fintech was in fact made by another firm in the structure, Bellis Phantom Holdco, before the shares were moved out of it in November last year.

    In a statement Asda said, “Unfortunately, there was an error in the table laying out the group of companies, incorrectly suggesting that Asda Group, Asda Stores and McLagan Investments were Jersey domiciled, when they have always been domiciled in the UK. All group companies are UK registered and pay tax in the UK in accordance with UK tax legislation.”

    The letter also details a company known as ‘Phantom Investments,’ the purpose of which is to invest in credit card company Jaja, for which Bellis is the ultimate parent company. But it neglects to mention that Jaja has a subsidiary, called Pana Finance, which since last year has raised hundreds of millions of pounds of debt via an offshore bond market located in Guernsey.

    Last year, Bellis also committed to investing tens of millions of pounds into Jaja, which struck a deal to provide credit cards for Asda, in which customers get £20 spending money at the supermarket when they sign up.

    It has also surfaced that Mohsin Issa also mischaracterised the Bellis ownership structure when he appeared before MPs in Parliament in July, when he seemed to confuse which was the parent of three holding companies that together own Asda.

    Mohsin told MPs he agreed with the suggestion that that Bellis Finco, which is the company that owns Asda, was itself owned by Bellis Acquisition Company, Bellis Acquisition Company 2 and Bellis Acquisition 3.

    “Without seeing it set out in front of me or with any prior indication that it was an area for discussion, I indicated on the day that this sounded correct,” Mohsin wrote in his letter to MPs.

    “Upon reading the transcript, however, I realise that while the entities themselves are correct, the structure as described was inverted.”

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