UK

Russell Brand Says 'Boycott Topshop' In Attack On Sir Philip Green

05/11/2013 14:29 GMT | Updated 05/11/2013 18:02 GMT

Russell Brand has launched a blistering attack on Sir Philip Green, the Topshop billionaire, accusing him of unethical tax avoidance, and urging people to "boycott Topshop".

"I don't mind some of the stuff they've got in Topshop. Some of the stuff they got in the vintage section is quite nice.

"But I think it would be better if we didn't get stuff out of Topshop. I know, it's hard, I sometimes forget. It's hard to avoid the system, look at me with my sexy trainers on."

russell brand and mehdi

HuffPost's Mehdi Hasan in conversation with Russell Brand

"The problem is the system is designed to benefit people like Philip Green."

Brand made the comments at an event with The Huffington Post UK in London, where he was probed on his take on tax, revolution and politics by political director Mehdi Hasan.

But the system is legal, Hasan interjected.

"Well it shouldn't be, take that £1.2bn off his missus in Monaco. We'll have that mate," Brand retorted.

Taveta Investments, the company used to acquire Arcadia in 2002, is in the name of Green's wife, Tina Green, a Monaco resident. It emerged in 2005 that Arcadia had paid Sir Philip's wife a £1.2bn dividend, thereby avoiding UK income tax, one of Brand's complaints.

Sir Philip, the chief executive of retail giant Arcadia which owns brands including Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, BHS and Miss Selfridge, has long been the subject of protest and boycott threats from activists like UKUncut. He was appointed the government's 'efficiency' tsar in 2010.

Sir Philip has insisted that he and the company do pay all their taxes owed in Britain: £2.3bn over the past 10 years, including £1.3bn in business rates, £591m in corporation tax, and £278m in national insurance contributions, according to comments he made to company executives, reported in the Telegraph.

A member of the audience, in response to Brand's earlier comments about a TopShop boycott, said she had seen pictures of Brand attending parties thrown by Sir Philip. She asked the comedian if he had ever asked the tycoon about his tax arrangements, to his face.

"I did go," Brand shrugged. "I have been to loads of them parties. I am not saying that I am talking from outside the system, I am not floating around in some bubble of enlightenment. I am saying I am different from you, or better from you, I am saying I am the same as you. I am subject to failings and flaws.

"I have done terrible things in my life. I am a scumbag, dirty drug addict. I have done nasty, nasty things in my life that I am ashamed of, and that I have got to live with, and pretty high up on the list is going to Philip Green's party.

"You know what, if I ever got invited there again, I will ask him.

"I woke up, I have been asleep. I have been distracted. It is nice to get a load of money and attention. If you're a fat little kid growing up in Essex who thinks you are worthless, then everyone tells you that you are great, it's going to puff you up. But you notice that it is bullshit."

Last week, the Mail reported Brand had a £15m fortune, and the newspaper raised questions over the tax affairs of a firm, Mayfair Film Partnership Limited, which the paper says has been linked to one of Brand's films. There is no suggestion of illegality.

Brand said he greatly admired the work of UK Uncut, Occupy and Anonymous, and said he encouraged those activists to boycott the brand.

The comedian insisted at the event that he did not have an army of accountants to help him use legal loopholes to avoid tax.

"You have got to pay all your taxes, because it is really bad otherwise," he said, bluntly. "I don't trust one second what they do [with] it. I'm not too happy that I'm paying for our government to plod round the world, bombing brown people.

"But some of it, by default, must go to the NHS. My mum got cancer three times, she was saved by the NHS, I was born in an NHS hospital. I went to state schools. So yeah, I pay my taxes. But I do feel a little like I am in system which I don't agree with, creating more terrorists with drones, winding people up all round the world, when I feel like I have more in common with the people they are bombing than the people we are bombing them for."

Brand admitted he had not always felt so strongly about the ethics of those he chooses to associate with. "I have been part of the charade. I am awake now.

"I have been in. I have been invited to the parties. I've been inside now, I've seen the other side of the looking glass. And it's not good. I still feel empty inside. The things you've been offered can't fill what we are looking for.

"When I was poor, and complained about shit, people said 'Oh, it's because you're bitter'. Now I've got a few quid and complain about shit, I'm a hypocrite. Really what they want is no-one saying anything. People in power want us to be talking about Justin Bieber. They don't want us talking about fracking, they want us talking about twerking."

Asked at the end of the event to describe the biggest regret of his career, Brand quipped: "I do regret going to that Philip Green party".

HuffPost UK has asked Arcadia to comment on Brand's statements.