Greenpeace investigation exposes agricultural subsidies linked to tax havens and billionaires

Publication date: 29th September 2016

Painting a picture of “a broken system which sends public subsidies into billionaires’ bank accounts,” the study reveals:

  • Individuals or families featured in the Sunday Times’ Rich List own or control 16 businesses among the Top 100 beneficiaries, receiving a total of £10.6m last year in “single payment scheme” subsidies alone, and £13.4m in total farm subsidies. Individuals in this group received single payments ranging from £395,000 to £1.4m.

  • Tax havens: four cases where the entities receiving subsidies were owned through offshore companies based in the “secrecy jurisdictions” of Jersey and Guernsey. A total of £3 million was paid to companies owned through tax havens. There is no suggestion that the owners of these companies have sought to avoid tax.

  • Greenpeace’s investigation also reveals huge payments to wealthy foreign owners not included on the British Rich List, including a racehorse-breeding Saudi prince previously listed on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index who describes his operation receiving subsidies as a “hobby” (see notes); and the Swedish billionaire majority owner of H&M.

  • One in five of the recipients are from British aristocratic families, including high-profile figures such as the late Duke of Westminster (who was one of the wealthiest men in Britain), the Queen and Lord Iveagh of the Guinness family.

  • A total of £87,927,951 was paid to the Top 100 in 2015. Of this, £61,194,962 was given under the single payment scheme, meaning the Top 100 recipients were paid more than the bottom 55,000 combined.

  • Recipients on the list include Conservative Party donors, and even a Conservative MP.

  • While recipients use their land in different ways, with some working in ways which clearly benefit the environment, the system does not distinguish between those who do and those who don’t.

  • See notes for further details.

The revelations will pile pressure on the Environment Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, to reform a farming subsidy system which has historically given only minor weight to environmental protection and the sustaining of food supplies in the rural economy and which continues to reward major landowners and wealthy individuals on the basis of how much land they own.

“It is untenable for the Government to justify keeping a farming policy which allows a billionaire to breed race horses on land subsidised by taxpayers. It’s clear that there cannot be a business-as-usual approach to farm subsidies after we leave the EU. One look at where these eye-watering sums are ending up is enough to show that the CAP system is kaput, and continuing in the same vein would be a costly mistake,” said Hannah Martin of Greenpeace UK’s Brexit Response Team. “Some of the recipients of these subsidies are doing great work which benefits our environment – but others are not – and it makes no sense that the CAP’s largest subsidy payments don’t distinguish between the two. That can’t be right. All landowners should be encouraged to help with things like conservation, sustainable food production, building thriving rural economies, maintaining healthy soils and reducing flood-risk.”

Greenpeace UK’s investigation team scrutinised Government figures and Companies House documents to trace ownership of the hundred largest recipients of the “single payment scheme”, the core part of the CAP’s £2.4bn “Pillar One” funding, which is based on the area of land owned.

While the recipients use their land in different ways, the current system remains blind to whether or not they are producing a public good – socially, economically and environmentally. Organisations such as the National Trust, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts, for example, have used their subsidies for important conservation work like managing habitats. These same organisations are also calling for a post-Brexit policy which encourages landowners to do more for the environment and rewards those who are already farming in ways which benefit nature.

Greenpeace’s Hannah Martin added:

“We cannot continue with a broken system which sends public subsidies into billionaires’ bank accounts. The British Government has never had a better opportunity to reshape our farming sector for the common good. We should be using any subsidies to improve the lot of farmers who really need our support and champion landowners who promote wildlife and biodiversity, use their land to help reduce flooding in their area and provide carbon storage to tackle climate change.”

Notes to editors:

See the full investigation here:

The CAP Rich List

16 of the Top 100 recipients are owned or controlled by individuals or families who feature on the 2016 Sunday Times Rich List. These include the aristocratic Guinness family, Swedish financier and racehorse owner Erik Penser, household goods billionaire Sir James Dyson, Lord Iliffe and family (descendents of the newspaper magnate and former Conservative MP Baron Edward Mauger Iliffe), and Duncan Henry Davidson, founder of the housebuilder Persimmon.

At least one in five of the Top 100 recipients are owned or controlled by members of British aristocratic families, including the Queen, the Duke of Westminster, the Duke of Northumberland, Sir Richard Sutton, the Earl of Moray, Baron Phillimore and family, and the Earl of Plymouth.

“Hobby” horse

In a remarkable case, one recipient owned through an offshore Guernsey company is Juddmonte Farms, the internationally famous racehorse-breeding operation of Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The huge breeding operation, which has produced some of the most famous stallions in recent history, including the champion racehorse Frankel, turned over £53m in 2015, but only 2.8% of that income (£1.5m) came from farming. Although the UK company reported profits of £8.7m in 2015 it paid no corporation tax, due to trading losses in previous years.

Juddmonte’s training manager has previously told the Financial Times that it is “not run as a commercial operation” and that in most years the prince puts money into the business rather than taking it out. The prince, who is worth around $1bn according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has previously been quoted as describing the Juddmonte operation as his “hobby”. Juddmonte was given £406,826 in CAP subsidies last year, of which £378,856 came from the single payment scheme.

Other Top 100 recipients

The Top 100 includes various other individuals or families whose wealth has in the past been valued in the tens of millions of pounds, or who are immediately related to people on the Sunday Times or Forbes rich lists. Among them are Michael Bertioli, who reportedly received £58m when he sold his stake in sensor company Druck Holdings in 2002; Fred Duncan, the founder of one time major meat supplier Grampian Country Foods; and Niels Holch Povlsen, the younger brother of Danish fashion billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen.

Other Top 100 recipients include the Conservative MP Richard Drax, a business linked to the Mormon Church, the conservation quango Natural England, water company Severn Trent and conservation charities such as the National Trust and the RSPB which are calling for reform of farming policy post-Brexit.

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Luke Massey,, 07973 873 155 // 07411 380 840