Geoffrey Cox earns fortune for working in tax haven

Top MP earns fortune for working in tax haven: Former attorney general Geoffrey Cox has second job that saw him vote remotely from the Caribbean

  • Geoffrey Cox QC voted in Parliament remotely from the British Virgin Islands
  • He took advantage of lockdown rules to cast votes in the Commons by proxy 
  • The MP also earned more than £1million from outside legal work this past year 

A Tory MP has earned hundreds of thousands of pounds from a second job that saw him vote in Parliament remotely from the Caribbean.

Geoffrey Cox, a QC and former attorney general, is advising the government of the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven accused of corruption.

He took advantage of lockdown rules to cast votes in the Commons by proxy as he worked 4,000 miles away on the lucrative contract earlier this year, a source disclosed.

Geoffrey Cox pictured with his wife Jeanie. He has been paid almost £900,000 by an international law firm over the past year and received more than £130,000 for other legal work

Sir Geoffrey yesterday revealed he has earned more than £1million from outside legal work over the past year on top of his £82,000 salary as a backbencher.

A Whitehall insider said: ‘While he should have been in the UK working for his constituents he’s been over in the British Virgin Islands doing his second job working as a barrister and advising those accused of trousering cash for their mates.’

The revelation is likely to prompt fresh calls for reform of the regulations surrounding MPs’ second jobs.

It came as Boris Johnson was accused of ‘running scared’ after he snubbed a fiery Commons debate yesterday following the row over the Government’s botched attempt to block the suspension of disgraced Tory MP Owen Paterson.

According to a source Sir Geoffrey, who is known for being the highest-earning MP, spent up to a month in the British Virgin Islands working for Withers, an international law firm

In other developments yesterday:

  • Labour took a narrow opinion poll lead over the Conservatives for the first time in 12 months;
  • A Tory MP said he was close to sending in a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership – the first step towards a possible contest to replace him;
  • Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the attempt by the Tories to tear up sleaze rules had showcased parliament ‘at its worst’;
  • Another disgraced Tory MP, Daniel Kawczynski, is facing a Commons ban over a clash with the sleaze watchdog;
  • The SNP wrote to the Metropolitan Police calling for an investigation into ‘cash for honours’ claims, following revelations that a string of Tory donors have been appointed to the Lords;
  • Parliament faced mounting pressure to scrap the system of offering passes to former MPs, which could allow Mr Paterson to have continued privileged access to Westminster institutions ;
  • The PM said he had not discussed a future peerage with Mr Paterson but refused to rule out the idea.

Sir Geoffrey, who is known for being the highest-earning MP, spent up to a month in the British Virgin Islands working for Withers, an international law firm, while voting by proxy in the Commons, a source said.

Sir Geoffrey is advising the government of the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven accused of corruption

He has been paid almost £900,000 by Withers over the past year and received more than £130,000 for other legal work.

He is thought to have been in the BVI in April and May this year. He was recorded as arriving on April 26, while the Commons was debating global anti-corruption sanctions.

A press release on the BVI government website for that day stated that Sir Geoffrey was ‘currently in quarantine’ but ‘intends to hold a series of meetings with government ministers in the next few weeks’.

He was listed among MPs eligible for a proxy vote that day.

The register of financial interests shows he received £156,916.08 from Withers for work undertaken between April 29 and May 31, 2021, totalling 140 hours.

Sir Geoffrey, who was sacked as attorney general last year, has been representing the government of the BVI, a British Overseas Territory, in an inquiry into the governance of the islands.

It was launched in January by the Foreign Office to establish whether there was evidence of ‘corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty that has taken place in public office in recent years’.

The inquiry has heard allegations of unaudited spending and contracts being handed out to politically-connected people.

The hearings have exposed tensions between the BVI’s local government and its governor, who is appointed by the UK.

A senior Whitehall source accused Sir Geoffrey of ‘pocketing hundreds of thousands of pounds to help stop the exposure of corruption in a Caribbean paradise’.

Appledore in Geoffrey Cox’s Devon constituency. The Tory MP yesterday revealed he has earned more than £1million from outside legal work over the past year on top of his £82,000 salary as a backbencher

At the time, coronavirus restrictions meant MPs could participate in Commons debates via Zoom and vote by a proxy – meaning they did not have to come to Westminster.

Sir Geoffrey was hired by Withers in September last year as its ‘consultant global counsel’ to advise on private and overseas government clients, according to the firm’s website.

A post announcing his appointment noted that he remained MP for Torridge and West Devon and a privy counsellor, and would still practise as a barrister at Thomas More Chambers in London.

The British Government is funding the ‘core cost’ of the commission of inquiry in the BVI, but will not pay the fees associated with legal counsels appointed by individuals or organisations.

Labour MP Karl Turner said yesterday: ‘How does Geoffrey Cox find time to do his job as a constituency MP?’

It comes amid growing calls for MPs to be banned from having second jobs which involve consultancy work. Sir Geoffrey was providing legal work, but many of his colleagues take on paid positions as consultants.

Sir Geoffrey did not respond to a request for comment last night.

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