Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton avoided tax on his £16.5m luxury jet, according to Paradise Papers documents.
They show a £3.3m VAT refund was given after the Bombardier Challenger 605 was imported into the Isle of Man in 2013.
It appears a leasing deal set up by advisers was artificial and did not comply with an EU and UK ban on refunds for private use – although he may have been entitled to one for business.
Hamilton’s lawyers say a tax barrister review found the structure was lawful. They added it was not correct to say no VAT had been paid on any of the arrangements.
A statement later issued by the racing driver’s representative said: “As a global sportsman who pays tax in a large number of countries, Lewis relies upon a team of professional advisers who manage his affairs.
“Those advisers have assured Lewis that everything is above board and the matter is now in the hands of his lawyers.”
At 06:15 on 21 January 2013, Hamilton touched down at Ronaldsway airport on the Isle of Man in his new jet with his then-pop star girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger to finalise the paperwork with customs.
While Hamilton’s planned use of the jet was predominantly for business purposes, the BBC’s Panorama programme has seen documents which suggest the 32-year-old F1 Mercedes driver intended to make private flights about a third of the time.
Hamilton’s social media accounts provide evidence he has used the candy apple red Challenger for holidays and on other personal trips around the world.
He has posted a number of photographs of himself on the plane on Instagram – including one showing his bulldogs Roscoe and Coco on board.
“If private usage of the jet is being disguised as business usage of the jet, then what you essentially have is a tax avoidance scheme,” says Rita De La Feria, professor of tax law at Leeds University.
“You’re using it for your own private interests, you’re going on holidays, meeting friends. You’re supposed to pay the tax on private consumption.”