A solicitor has been jailed for 10 years for his part in a tax fraud involving ’astonishing greed hidden behind a mask of concern for the environment’. Rodney Whiston-Dew, 66, was one of six men sentenced to a total of 45 years for devising a fake eco-investment scheme as a tax break for wealthy investors. In total, £107.9m was defrauded from HM Revenue and Customs in one of the UK’s biggest tax crimes.
The men, led by engineer Michael Richards, 55, lured wealthy individuals to invest in largely fake environmental projects with the promise of a tax break.
Sentencing the six at Southwark Crown Court today, Mr Justice Edis said they ’were simply motivated by a desire to become extremely rich and to evade tax on their proceeds of crime. The sums involved mean that these defendants were playing for high stakes and they have lost.’
Edis described Whiston-Dew as ’a solicitor of considerable experience’. He was used as general counsel to the scheme, ’in particular to deal with the parts which were too dishonest to be shown to any honest solicitor’. He personally evaded at least £2,174,330,in tax, the judge said. However, the exact sum lost was impossible to measure ’because of the outrageous way in which Whiston-Dew operated his business. He produced no accounts. He said in his evidence that his accountant had failed him and had thrown away his books and records because they were too bulky to keep. This absurd evidence was plainly rejected by the jury.’
The judge noted that the proceedings in the case had taken far longer than they should have done. The defendants had been arrested in July 2007 and charged in March 2010.’It is, on any view, an unhappy state of affairs,’ he said.
Edis ended with a tribute to the jury, which sat for 10 months in the case with the loss of only one member - because she gave birth prematurely. ’Some people think that juries cannot try complex fraud cases. I wish those people had been here to see this jury at work,’ he said. ’The job of taking important decisions about other people is not easy, and not always agreeable. This jury did that job, and took those decisions. They should be proud of the way they have done their work, and that the public of this country should be, and are, very grateful to them.’