Jill Mortimer, the Tory’s candidate in the Hartlepool by-election, has spent more time in the Cayman Islands, where she used to live, than she has in the town she is seeking to represent, the Mirror revealed on Monday.
But why did someone delete a webpage referring to the years she spent away from Yorkshire (where she now lives) in Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands? It was posted by the B&B she now owns and runs but is no longer online.
The last time we checked, Mortimer’s own biography has yet to be uploaded to her campaign website. That is a curious omission given that she’s standing for Parliament.
There is absolutely no suggestion of wrongdoing on Mortimer’s part. People can live wherever they choose. And some of us would like nothing more than to spend a decade in sunnier climes.
But the story clearly hit a nerve judging by the furious push back from Conservative chair Amanda Milling. Perhaps she was worried that a candidate who spent a decade living in a tax haven might not play well in a town that has suffered at the hands of brutal Tory cuts?
Miller was responding to Angela Rayner, Labour’s combative party chair and deputy leader, who wrote to her opposite number demanding answers to the following questions:
Were you aware of Jill Mortimer’s Cayman Islands connection when she was selected?
If not, why not? If so, can you confirm that you knew but still endorsed her to represent the people of Hartlepool?
What business, banking and investment interests were she or her former husband engaged in?
Did they gain any tax advantage from living there – and did she or he advise others of the tax advantages of setting up or living in the Cayman Islands?
In the interests of transparency, will you now publish a full account of Mrs Mortimer’s time in the Cayman Islands?
Will you also order Mrs Mortimer to publish in full her tax returns covering that period?
Can the Conservative Party and Jill Mortimer confirm she no longer has any connection to the Cayman Islands, including financial interests such as bank accounts or any other assets?
Will you apologise to the people of Hartlepool for seeking to impose a candidate who has more connection with tax havens than Hartlepool town centre?
Milling accused Rayner of “any eye-popping error”. Mortimer was living in Cayman “because her then husband was a REGULATOR, working on counter-fraud, anti-corruption, and anti-terrorist financing”, she declared.
Mortimer was indeed married to Marcus Killick, who was Head of Banking, Trusts and Investment Services at the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 1997-1998, according to his Linkedin entry. He was subsequently KPMG’s international regulatory services director from 1998-2003 and went on to work as Executive Officer of the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (the jurisdiction’s financial services regulator) from 2003 until 2014. Killick was also Deputy Chief Executive of the Isle of Man Financial Supervision Commission.
Fighting corruption and fraud is a noble calling and tax havens (or International Financial Centres, as their defenders prefer to call them) are clearly not illegal. Killick himself is a passionate advocate for the vital role tax havens play in the international financial system, as readers of his regular online musings on the subject can attest.
In July 2019 he wrote; “If, as some would wish, the International Financial Centres that some still refer to as ‘tax havens’ simply ceased to exist, what would happen? The global economy might not grind to a halt but the criminal activity that certain parties still accuse the small centres of, may actually get worse. Corruption and money laundering would increase not decrease”.
In September 2017, he told an interviewer he was confident IFCs “will remain competitive”, because they “tend to have lower tax levels, which is entirely legitimate”. In the same interview, he said “Regarding the Panama papers, most of what they disclosed was entirely legitimate. Clearly some was questionable although much of the illicit activity disclosed was historic, some going back decades”.
Killick previously conceded, in November 2016 “No doubt some tax dodgers will be wishing they hadn’t used that particular law firm”, in a reference to Fonseca, whose leaked documents formed the basis of the Panama papers scandal. The vast majority of those leaked papers revealed nothing more than “the standard activities of a reasonably large law firm”, he added.
To be totally clear, these are Killick’s views. He is no longer married to Jill Mortimer, and even if he was, it wouldn’t matter. Mortimer is her own woman who can speak for herself. And she may well give her own answers to Rayner’s questions when she next appears publicly in Hartlepool.
But that last thing the Tories need as May 6th approaches is to be stuck with a candidate who spent years abroad living in tax havens, no matter why she was there or who she was with.
One of the more intriguing aspects of this by election has been how muted Tees Valley Mayor, Tory Ben Houchen, has been about his party’s campaign. He’s rumoured to have been against Mortimer’s candidacy from the outset. Did he know about the skeletons in her closet?