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Bank fines to aid British charities linked to poppy tribute

[LONDON] Fines paid by banks for rigging interest rates will be used to finance a tax break for British military charities raising funds from a First World War memorial that has brought millions of visitors to the Tower of London.

The Treasury has said it will waive the value added tax (VAT) on the sale of hundreds of thousands of bright red ceramic poppies that form a hugely popular installation marking the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War.

The government will donate the amount it would have received in VAT - 1.1 million pounds (US$1.7 million) - to six military charities.

It said some of the money it has collected in fines imposed by British authorities on seven banks and brokers accused of rigging the benchmark Libor interest rate will be used for the donation.

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That comes on top of the proceeds from every poppy sold already set to be shared among the charities, which include Combat Stress and the Royal British Legion.

The government certainly has the funds to make the VAT gesture. Banks including Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Switzerland's UBS have paid 460 million pounds to British financial regulators to settle allegations of interest rate rigging.

Part of an art installation called "The Tower of London Remembers: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red", the ceramic poppies each represent one of the 888,246 British and colonial soldiers killed during World War One. It was created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins and staged by designer Tom Piper.

The first poppy was planted in July and more have gradually been added to fill the moat of the London landmark. It is estimated that around 4 million people will have visited the exhibition by the time the last is planted on Tuesday, the anniversary of the end of the conflict.

A campaign to extend the tribute succeeded in keeping part of the exhibition in place until the end of November.

Later, two of its features, Weeping Window and Wave - a cascade of poppies pouring out of a Tower of London window and a curling swathe of poppies at the entrance to the Tower - will go on tour around Britain.