Sunday 10 April 2016

From Panama to Kilburn - time for some questions to be asked

I was a little surprised when last year the Brent and Kilburn Times reported a House of Lords celebration of the achievements of Kilburn Grange Free School before it had opened.

This aroused my curiosity but it has been sharpened even further by a report on the  Panama off-shore funding controversy which appears to link  Kilburn Grange, funded by the DfE and with just 53 pupils, according to their website, with Mossock Fonseca.

Kilburn Grange Free School is part of a Multi Academy Trust, Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET) and according to their website LINK:

Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET) is a multi academy sponsor and we sponsor seven primary Free Schools across London and the South-East. Bellevue Place’s core purpose and responsibility is to establish, maintain and manage state funded Free Schools.

All Bellevue Place schools are focused to deliver high quality education provision in areas where there is a shortage of primary school places.

Bellevue Place is a new model for education delivery in the state sector. The Trust is a joint venture between two organisations who are passionate about providing high quality education provision. They bring together the very best of the fee-paying Independent sector – Bellevue Education Ltd – experienced in running 15 independent schools in the UK and Switzerland; with a highly-regarded education consultancy – Place Group – with experience in the state sector for efficiency of supply in setting up new schools and converting academies, along with driving value for money and compliance.

The BPET accounts are posted on the Rutherford School website LINK

The Bellevue Education Group Limited part of the Trust is of interest to the Sarawak Report LINK:

One of the clients of the off-shore incorporations firm Mossack Fonseca, exposed in the so-called Panama Papers this week, was PetroSaudi’s Tarek Obaid.

Using a web of off-shore vehicles, he and fellow director Patrick Mahony secretly invested some of the millions they obtained in illegal backhanders from Malaysia’s Development fund in a private education company that bought up some of the UK’s poshest private schools.
Documents acquired by Sarawak Report reveal that the two men are the secret funders behind the self proclaimed entrepreneur, Marwan Naja, who acts as Chairman of Bellevue Education, a fast growing business, which has acquired 12 lucrative schools since 2010.

The Bellevue Education Group, previously named The Really Great Education Company Limited, is officially run from Geneva, although its UK registered company address is the PetroSaudi headquarters in Curzon Street. In fact, the business is primarily owned by two vehicles named Plato One and Plato Two based in Hong Kong, which are in turn controlled by Mahony together with an off-shore company owned by Obaid called Maplehill Property Limited (BVI).

In the course of setting up the complex ownership structure in 2010 Marwan (who has just one share) reported he had:

 “taken specific tax advice from a firm of internationally recognised accountants which has confirmed to him in writing that no Tax will be payable.. as a result of any dividends, distributions or other returns..whether during the Investment or following an exit from the Investment”

The revelations will be an embarrassment to the high profile educationalist, Mark Malley, who set up the company, after what he claims was a highly successful stint as a headmaster, turning around failing schools.

He is the Chief Executive of Bellevue Education Group and owns shares in the fast expanding venture, which plainly seeks to cash in on a perceived burgeoning market for private early years schools in and around London.
  See LINK for Directors etc

Click to enlarge

It appears that the DfE is funding a free school  with taxpapers' money which has some slightly worrying connections.   We know according to some reports that eventually free schools and academies may be allowed to become profit making  but it would be worth the authorities checking where the money is going at present.

The staff, governors and parents of Kilburn Grange may have little idea of the ins and outs of the Trust and the school itself may do a wonderful job but perhaps they should be asking some searching questions about the Trust and its partners.



Philip Grant said...

If the "Sarawak Report" is correct, and it looks like a well-researched piece of investigative journalism, then the "Educational Trust" behind the Kilburn Grange Free School appears to be a money laundering enterprise, which seeks to "legitimise" a large amount of stolen funds, as well as to avoid tax on the profits earned from that laundered money.

The Department for Education has clearly not done proper "due diligence" on this Free School / Academy sponsor before agreeing to put public money into its activities. Given the off-shore ownership structures set up to conceal who benefits from the profits of this business, there is no way that the government can justify having dealings with it. If David Cameron is serious about tackling tax avoidance, he should tell Nicky Morgan to "pull the plug" on DfE funding for Bellevue.


Alison Hopkins said...

The DfE doesn't do any due diligence. Why is Gladstone School still being funded?

ABC said...

Absolutely! Banning parent governors and removing schools from the support of local authorities whilst handing schools over to private enterprise masquerading as pseudo-charities needs to stop. It's a million miles from meeting the needs of pupils and communities.

ABC said...

Good work if you can get it. Paul Philips still "principal designate" on his LinkedIn.

Alison Hopkins said...

And let's not forget Mr and Mrs G, eh?

Nan. said...

I feel a bit sorry for various governments whose 'efforts' to 'regulate' tax havens have fallen so flat.

So I propose we send Philip as a global emissary to Ask Questions at each tax haven and give Martin exclusive the reporting rights - job done.

Anonymous said...

Here, here.