The first billionaire to become UK’s King


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In his last princely decade, the New York Times estimates, Charles watched his money managers increase his Duchy’s portfolio value and profits “by about 50 percent.” The Duchy last year brought Charles $28 million in income. His official salary as prince: just $1.1 million.

Charles as king now gains his mom’s Duchy of Lancaster, a portfolio worth over $950 million. Throw into the royal family’s overall fortune the queen’s private personal wealth and the “Crown Estate,” a package of holdings that last year delivered to the royals a $99-million “Sovereign Grant,” and you  end up with a royal family nest-egg worth somewhere around $28 billion.

No one knows exactly how high that nest-egg figure goes, mainly because no “sunshine” rules govern the royal fortune. And not much in the way of taxes impact that fortune either. Bequests in the UK valued at over $380 000 face a 40 percent inheritance tax, but Charles will pay not a penny of tax on the royal wealth he has inherited. The British crown carries an inheritance tax exemption.

Capital gains tax? The royals don’t legally have to bother with that either. Charles, in fact, doesn’t have a legal obligation to pay tax on any of his income, but he does make an annual contribution to the UK’s tax authorities. How much he pays —and how much in expenses he claims against his income — remains privileged private information.

In a sense, Charles as wealth-builder has followed in the footsteps of his royal namesakes. In the mid-17th century, Antigua ambassador-at-large Dorbrene O’Marde points out, King Charles I opened the trade between Britain and Africa that would lead to trafficking in human slaves. King Charles II owned the company, O’Marde recently told Democracy Now!, “that moved more Africans off of the continent into the Americas than any other company in history.”

O’Marde chairs the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Commission, one of the many efforts now underway in former British colonies to get Britain, as O’Marde puts it, “to reassess its role in the genocide, in the plunder, in the violence that it exerted on African people.” Leading those efforts: a commission created by Caribbean heads of state to make the case for bringing justice to “the victims of Crimes against Humanity” that range from genocide to racial apartheid.

This Caricom Reparations Commission has developed an action plan that details proposals to redress a wide range of the wrongs inflicted over 400 years of British and European empire-building. One of these proposals would address the hypertension and type-two diabetes within today’s African-descended Caribbean population. No group globally has a higher incidence of these chronic ailments.

Another part of the plan seeks to undo the lasting economic damage done under the British imperial slogan that “not a nail is to be made in the colonies.” That approach denied the Caribbean “participation in Europe’s industrialization process” and limited the region to producing and exporting raw materials within a system “designed to extract maximum value from the region and enable maximum wealth accumulation in Europe.”

This past June, Charles recognized this history and bolstered his image as someone who cares deeply about matters that go beyond the traditional ceremonial obligations of British monarchs. He told British Commonwealth leaders meeting in Rwanda that he “cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact.”

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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