Activists from the British group UK Uncut have split off from a much larger anti-cuts protest in London at this hour to occupy the high-end department store Fortnum and Mason.
Protesters are staging the occupation to draw attention to Britain’s corporate tax avoiders, but critics have leaped to criticize the group, claiming that Fortnum and Mason is actually a charitable enterprise, donating all of its profits to charity.
Are they right? Not really.
Fortnum’s is owned by Wittington Investments Limited, which is in turn owned by two entities — the Garfield Weston Foundation, one of Britain’s biggest charities, owns almost 80% of it, and the Weston family owns the rest. So most, but not all, of Fortnum’s profits go to charity.
UK Uncut claim that they have good reason to target Fortnum’s, though. In a press release today, they say that “Whittington Investments … have a 54% stake in Associated British Foods who produce Ryvita, Kingsmill and others and own Primark, and that “ABF have dodged over £40 million in tax.”
I’m still trying to track down the source of UK Uncut’s claims about ABF, but that’s the deal. Fortnum and Mason is owned by Wittington Investments, and UK Uncut says Wittington Investments is a tax dodger. Wittington is mostly, but not entirely, charitable.
Update | And there’s this. The Garfield Weston Foundation was found last year to have violated British charity law because it allowed Wittington Investments to make donations to non-charitable political organizations amounting to some £1.32 million. The donations, all to right-wing groups, included £900,000 in gifts to the Conservative Party.