Tim Minns – columnist of the year

The award-winning columnist who knows things better than anyone

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Having been involved in BBC’s Panorama investigation into employees at Lloyd’s Banking Group advising wealthy clients about how to avoid UK taxes by channelling their money through China, it is now with some relief that I see HM Revenue & Customs are finally pursuing the matter based on the evidence we presented them. I, along with many others, spent months planning this particular documentary, which culminated in our now-legendary undercover sting that took place at the offshore branch of the bank in Jersey.

It was originally planned that I would pose as a customer at the branch with £4million to invest, but due to my extensive involvement in regional television there a few years ago, John Sweeney (who was fronting the documentary) decided to use a businessman called Tony Donnelly instead. Knowing better than anyone how crucial this stage of such an investigation is, I was more than happy to stay off-camera completely, as I was conscious that my level of recognition could ruin months of hard work by many of my respected colleagues.

We actually ended up capturing footage of a branch employee at Lloyd’s TSB Offshore advising our reporter about how income earned on deposits made in Jersey is then paid to clients via Hong Kong in order to “get round” the European Savings Tax Directive – something which I myself know better than anyone due to having lived there a few years ago. These practices were commonplace even back then and I knew of several people (none of whom I am permitted to name in this column) who took advantage of this loophole, so I was in a good position to advise on the overall direction of this part of the documentary from behind the camera.

I also advised John and his team that Northern Rock were doing something similar in Guernsey and that it may be worth expanding the investigation to include them too, seeing as they were now, somewhat ironically, owned by the taxpayer. John was keen to investigate this avenue and we managed to add this to that section of the programme, despite it being done at the last minute.

I’d like to use this opportunity to thank the tireless work and dedication of everyone involved in the documentary, especially John Sweeney who did an incredible job throughout – often under difficult circumstances.

I hope that HMRC appreciate our efforts.

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Congratulations to my friend Simon Cowell on another ratings-busting series of X-Factor. That man knows how to put on a good show and I know better than anyone exactly what X-Factor means to him.

I remember we spoke shortly after the second series of Pop Idol had finished and he said that, although it had been massively successful, he sensed that the public wanted something fresher with a more wide-ranging appeal. I made an off-the-cuff remark about how it might be a good idea to have, say, three categories – over 25s, 16-24s and groups – and that you could retain a judging panel of three industry professionals, each of whom could act as a “mentor” for one of those categories.

I knew better than anyone that the public wanted more variety from these shows, as I had spoken with several other journalists who all said the same. Simon told me he thought it was a good idea and that he would think about a way in which he could make it into a marketable franchise, with a view to replacing Pop Idol. The rest, as they say, is history…

I’m glad Simon’s still doing well and I’m also pleased that he tried out the live audience idea, too. I had a chat with him from the front row on the recent series of Britain’s Got Talent and I told him that the live crowd added an important dimension to the show and that it might be worth trying for X-Factor. Looking at the current audience figures I think we might have been proven right!

I for one will certainly be glued to this incredible show.

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Message to Strictly Come Dancing: You may remember a few months ago how I withdrew from appearing on this current series because I knew better than anyone how the show would suffer from making unnecessary changes to the judging panel. You may wish to take a look at your latest viewing figures for confirmation. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

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2 Responses to “”

  1. dleighmiad Says:

    Mr. Minns, your objective, unbiased reporting style never fails to impress.

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