A solicitor jailed for 10 years for tax fraud has accepted being struck off the roll – despite continuing to protest his innocence. Rodney Whiston-Dew was convicted in November 2017 of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and of acting with intent to prejudice or defraud HM Revenue and Customs.
He was sentenced along with four co-defendants in relation to his involvement in what the judge described as a ‘sophisticated and fraudulent’ tax evasion scheme over three years.
Last month the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that the premise of the scheme was a purported investment in an environmental project involving reforestation in Brazil, offering tax incentives for high net-worth individuals to claim tax relief on other income streams.
Investors claimed tax relief on £269.8m of purported expenditure, even though they had contributed only £64.6m to the scheme. Of that contribution, the tribunal heard only £16m went to the reforestation project, with £23.5m of the balance diverted to the five defendants through a Swiss bank account, into a variety of trusts set by the defendants. Whiston-Dew was responsible for establishing these trusts.
Whiston-Dew, who was admitted in 1988 but not held a practising certificate since 2008, is appealing both the conviction and sentence.
His mitigation, not endorsed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, was set out in hand-written notes attached to the tribunal’s judgment.
He considers that the conviction was incorrectly reached and did not accept the remarks of the sentencing judge accurately reflected his involvement in the scheme.
Whiston-Dew added: ‘Whatever actions I took would be taken every day in practice by major English law firms in advising on tax efficient structures. Just as it was my duty, it is the lawyer’s duty to act in the best interests of his/her client, sometimes at the risk of upsetting HMRC, who are programmed to deem any tax avoidance scheme to be aggressive.’
The SRA and Whiston-Dew agreed to a strike off, and the tribunal signed this off. There was no costs order, based on a review of Whiston-Dew’s means.