A London barrister with a history of tax evasion and bankruptcy has been jailed after failing to pay more than £80,000 in tax.
Edward Paul Agbaje, 60, who worked from 1 Gray’s Inn Square specialising in criminal law, charged clients VAT but failed to pass the cash to HM Revenue & Customs.
He received an 18-month sentence for failing to pay more than £80,000 in tax over a seven-year period after being convicted at the Old Bailey of two counts of cheating the public revenue.
Agbaje, who had been declared bankrupt twice, in 1999 and 2008, claimed in court to have spent the money gambling.
He had been deregistered for VAT by HMRC in February 2005 after failing to submit complete VAT returns dating back to 1994. This meant he was barred from trading above the VAT threshold, which was then £58,000.
He continued to trade, paying no VAT from 2 February 2005 to 17 March 2012. He used his invalid VAT number on invoices during this period and collected more than £59,000 in VAT on fees from clients, pocketing the money rather than passing it on to HMRC.
Assistant director of criminal investigations at HMRC Andrew Sackey said: ‘As a barrister Agbaje should have known better than to try to cheat the system. He thought he was above the law but HMRC will not stand by while criminals try to cheat the taxpayer.’
Agbaje’s offences were discovered during a routine VAT visit to his chambers, when HMRC found that he was using his old, deregistered VAT number on invoices.
HMRC currently has a legal profession taskforce operating in London, targeting non-payment from the sector.