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As-well as shining a spotlight on the secret financial arrangements of the rich and powerful, the so-called Panama Papers  have laid bare London's role as a vital organ of the world's tax-haven network.

The files leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca exposed Britain's link to thousands of firms based in tax havens and how secret money is invested in British assets, particularly London property.

Critics accuse British authorities of turning a blind eye to the inflow of suspect money and of being too close to the financial sector to clamp down on the use of its overseas territories as havens, with the British Virgin Islands alone hosting 110,000 of the Mossack Fonseca's clients."London is the epicentre of so much of the sleaze that happens in the world," Nicholas Shaxson, author of the book Treasure Islands, which examines the role of offshore banks and tax havens, told AFP.

The political analyst said that Britain itself was relatively transparent and clean, but that companies used the country's territories abroad - relics of the days of empire - to "farm out the seedier stuff", often under the guise of shell companies with anonymous owners.

"Tax evasion and stuff like that will be done in the external parts of the network. Usually there will be links to the City of London, UK law firms, UK accountancy firms and to UK banks," he said, calling London the centre of a "spider's web".

"They're all agents of the City of London - that is where the whole exercise is controlled from," Richard Murphy, professor at London's City University, said of the offshore havens.



Activists staged a demonstration inside one of London's biggest museums on Sunday (April 3) in protest at its sponsorship links with energy giant BP.

A 20-strong group of activists held what they called a "disobedient exhibition" inside the British Museum in central London.

The mock exhibition was entitled "A History of BP in 10 Objects", a play on "A History of the World in 100 Objects", a recent British Museum show."It features objects sent from all over the world by communities impacted by BP's environmental destruction and human rights abuses, including crude oil from the Gulf Coast spill," the activists said in a statement.

They claimed BP's support - largely focused on special exhibitions - represented 0.8 per cent of the central London museum's annual income.

Last September, the self-styled "theatrical campaign group", named "BP Or Not BP?", held a similar protest inside the museum with demonstrators dressed in black to resemble an oil slick, forming the word "No".

The new protest came as 91 figures including actors Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and campaigner Bianca Jagger signed a letter to the Guardian newspaper about the issue.

They urged the museum's new director, Hartwig Fischer, who takes up his post on Monday, not to renew BP's sponsorship deal and instead "seek funding from sources more in line with the museum's values".

The British Museum, which has free admission except for special exhibitions, attracts seven million visitors each year.



Cunning gentleman thieves have seduced romantics from the days of Robin Hood through to Hollywood's heyday - and now London is transfixed by the real-life antics of the "Wimbledon Prowler".

The prolific burglar is suspected of carrying out hundreds of break-ins around one of London's most exclusive neighbourhoods, making off with assets worth more than £10 million (S$19.2 million).

The quaint, upscale neighbourhood of Wimbledon Village in the British capital's smart southwest is sheltered from the hustle of city life, and known mainly for its famous tennis tournament and multimillion-pound mansions.

But fear now stalks the leafy streets in the form of the "Wimbledon Prowler", as the light-fingered criminal has been nicknamed by the British press.

In a decade of deception, the thief has committed more than 200 burglaries, making mockeries of locks, alarms and security camera systems to pilfer luxury watches, jewellery and cash, detective inspector Dan O'Sullivan told AFP.


Britain's Conservative government raised the minimum wage that is pocketed by more than a million people Friday, trumpeting it as a transformative step for the economy but winning few plaudits from employers or austerity-weary unions.

Affecting between 1.3 million and 1.8 million people according to varying estimates, the minimum gross salary for all British workers aged over 25 climbed by 7.5 percent to £7.20 ($10.36, 9.10 euros) an hour as of April 1, a pay boost that far outstrips inflation.

The pay rise, first announced by Prime Minister David Cameron's government last July, represents a complete about-turn for the Conservative party, which opposed the introduction of the minimum wage in 1999 when then prime minister Tony Blair's Labour was in power.

"The National Living Wage will play a central role in moving Britain to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare economy," British finance minister George Osborne said as the pay boost came into effect.

"It will also mark the end of the gender pay gap for some of our lowest paid and hardest working people."

The opposition Labour party criticised the policy as a "cruel sleight of hand", however, pointing to the government's enactment of sharp cutbacks in welfare spending.

- Stagnant wage growth -

Other nations, too, have raised minimum wages in recent years to address stagnant wage growth and inequality between rich and poor.

France lifted the minimum wage at the start of this year to almost 9.70 euros an hour.

Germany launched a minimum wage one year earlier at 8.50 euros, where it remains.

And in the United States, California plans to raise the pre-tax minimum wage to $15 per hour (13.28 euros) in a move which might be followed by other US states.

In Britain, where unemployment is relatively low at around 5.0 percent, large wage inequalities persist and London School of Economics professor Alan Manning described the new living wage as "more symbolic" than anything else.

"It's significant but I don't think one should exaggerate its significance," he told AFP.


Britain will team up with the United States and European partners to exchange its nuclear waste for material to be used in the fight against cancer, Prime Minister David Cameron will announce Thursday.

The British leader is expected to unveil the plan at a two-day international summit in Washington, beginning Thursday, aimed at ensuring that nuclear material in the world's roughly 1,000 atomic facilities is secured.

The deal will see Britain send waste from nuclear facilities in Scotland for processing in US reactors in the "largest-ever movement of highly-enriched uranium out of the UK," according to a British government source.

In exchange, the US will send uranium for use in reactors in the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).


Indian steel giant Tata Steel on Wednesday put its British business up for sale, placing thousands of jobs at risk and striking a heavy blow to the crisis-hit steel industry.

Tata said in a statement that trading conditions had "rapidly deteriorated" in Britain and Europe due to a global oversupply of steel, a "significant increase" in cheaper imports into Europe, weak domestic demand, high costs and currency volatility.

"These factors are likely to continue into the future and have significantly impacted the long term competitive position of the UK operations," read the statement issued in Mumbai.

The company's European arm Tata Steel Europe will now "explore all options for portfolio restructuring including the potential divestment of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts" -- including Britain's biggest steel plant at Port Talbot in Wales.

"Given the severity of the funding requirement in the foreseeable future, the Tata Steel Europe board will be advised to evaluate and implement the most feasible option in a time-bound manner," it said.


Tributes were paid to a Muslim shopkeeper killed in what police described as a "religiously prejudiced" attack, as a Muslim suspect remained in custody.

Asad Shah, 40, died after being found with serious injuries outside his shop in Glasgow on Thursday evening.

He was believed to be a member of the minority Ahmadi Muslim community, and media reports said he was originally from Pakistan.

Police arrested a 32-year-old Muslim man on Friday, and a spokeswoman said: "A full investigation is underway to establish the full circumstances surrounding the death which is being treated as religiously prejudiced."



Cambridge ended a run of three straight defeats by Oxford with victory in the 162nd edition of the University Boat Race in London on Saturday.

The heavier and more experienced crew, Cambridge were the favourites for this year's renewal on the 4 miles, 374 yards (6.8 km) course between Putney and Mortlake on the River Thames.

Victory saw the Light Blues extend their overall lead in a race first run in 1829 to 82 wins to 79.

On a day when rough water had played havoc with the preceding women's race, Cambridge were ahead almost from the start and although Oxford hung on grimly they never looked at any stage as if they would overtake their ancient rivals in this latest contest between England's two oldest universities.

Cambridge, who won the toss, had the early advantage of the Surrey bend in their favour were sufficiently far ahead of the Dark Blues to make it across to the safety of the Middlesex riverbank in increasingly choppy water.



Britain's press regulator on Saturday censured Rupert Murdoch's The Sun tabloid for a "significantly misleading" story claiming one in five British Muslims sympathise with jihadist fighters.

The ruling on the front-page story from November comes amid heightened community tensions following the Brussels attacks this week claimed by the Islamic State group, which left 31 people dead.

The mass-selling daily claimed an exclusive poll revealed "1 in 5 Brit Muslims' sympathy for jihadis", and published a picture of Mohammed Emwazi, the British IS executioner known as Jihadi John, alongside the shock headline.

The story generated more than 3,000 complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), most of them challenging the coverage on the grounds of accuracy.



The final print edition of The Independent newspaper went on sale Saturday, ending its 30-year appearance on British newsstands with an exclusive on an assassination plot against a former Saudi king.

A poignant wrap-around front page carried the words "STOP PRESS" in red lettering on a white background, followed by the words "Read all about it in this, our final print edition - 1986- 2016".

The newspaper will now be available online only, with its final editorial claiming history would be the judge of its "bold an example for other newspapers around the world to follow".

In its final front-page exclusive, the "Indy" reported that British-based dissident Mohammed al-Massari was being pursued through the courts over a plot ordered by former Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi to assassinate Saudi king Abdullah.

Journalists earlier posted footage online of the team "banging ourselves out" -- an old tradition of banging the desks to mark the departure of a colleague.

"Today the presses have stopped, the ink is dry and the paper will soon crinkle no more," it said.

"But as one chapter closes, another opens, and the spirit of The Independent will flourish still."