Kevin Kinsella Jnr at KinsellaTax is concerned to read about the case of Philip Bowles who was sentenced to 3 and a half years in jail for a tax fraud despite, apparently, the judge’s doubts.
Before giving details of the case it is clear that expert advice and opinions should have been sought from day one although there was apparently some problem with Mr Bowles’ assets.
His assets were frozen under The Proceeds of Crime Act. Nevertheless, one would have thought there would have been someone who would have picked this up earlier rather than later.
Apparently the firm of chartered accountants who did the work did it on a pro-bono basis and they should be commended for that. That report will be the basis of an appeal by Mr Bowles’ legal team.
It is, as I say, very clear and one thing that KinsellaTax has always stated is to get advice as early as possible. Don’t leave things in abeyance letting time run out and leaving yourself in the very difficult position of finding yourself, as Mr Bowles did, with no assets to pay for expert advice.
So there you have it; get expert advice as soon as you get a letter or an indication that something is not right. The earlier the better.
Now the case of Philip Bowles is that the judge, Judge Anthony King, publicly wavered over jailing him after defence lawyers has asked the judge to avoid a “grave injustice” by taking the unprecedented step of sending the case to the Court of Appeal before passing sentence.
The judge rejected this request and duly sentenced Mr Bowles to 3 and a half years in prison.
As I say, the appeal would centre on a forensic accountancy report which claims that far from owing taxes, Bowles’ companies were due a refund.
This is the report that was carried out by a firm of chartered accountants on a pro-bono basis, and as I say they should be commended for offering that service but surely somebody could have seen this earlier than they did.
Apparently the report was only made after Bowles was convicted by the jury in June of cheating the Revenue out of £1.2 million in VAT and after sentencing had been adjourned on three previous occasions after he had been found guilty of failing to pay VAT on a BIG land sale and diverting money due to the taxman to prop up Airfreight Success, an ailing air freight company he owned.
It was never suggested that Bowles, who had no previous convictions, had used the money to prop up a luxury lifestyle.
Nevertheless, when the Revenue began a criminal investigation into his affairs in 2006, again that is over three years ago why didn’t somebody deal with the actual substance of the case and that was, was VAT owed or was it not owed?
Somebody should be smacked on the wrists over this, if indeed it turns out to be correct.
The defence lawyers claimed that the preparation of Bowles’ defence case was hampered further because his company’s financial records were in the hands of administrators and administrators do not like to pay out money unnecessarily and that included in refusing to have a forensic accountant carry out the report.
The Legal Services Commission, who gave legal aid to Bowles because of his financial predicament, also refused to fund such a report.
The court was told that the records could be considered by a counsel with a calculator. Frankly I have always found that the legal boys avoid figures like the plague so I wouldn’t think that was conducive to offering a decent defence.
However, Bowles was cleared of two charges but found guilty of a third.
The financial report as I say was prepared free of charge by a firm of chartered accountants and a draft copy was presented to the judge two months ago.
You’re over three years into the case and this report is only available two months ago and the analysis concluded that rather than owing tax, Bowles’ companies had actually overpaid the taxes.
Lawyers for Bowles also claimed in court that matters were compounded by a failure to explain VAT law properly. They alleged the jury were wrongly informed that companies in the same group could not assign tax liabilities and credits between each other.
Presumably, that was when the prosecution was making their closing speech.
In spite of having legal aid, Mr Bowles was given a silk, in other words a QC, to defend him who told the sentencing hearing that the accountants’ report was credible and admissible” and obviously hadn’t been raised in the main trial.
The prosecution told the judge that the new material could only be considered by the Appeals Courts, and they are quite right. They told him that he had to proceed to sentence according to the established legal procedure which he did.
Bowles was also ordered to pay £130,000 in prosecution costs and a confiscation order will follow next year.
I imagine there will be an application immediately for an appeal and a request for bail whilst the appeal is being heard.
Whether or not he is given bail remains to be seen but at the hearing in the Court of Appeal, the appeal judges will hear the new evidence and, depending on how much credibility they put on that new evidence, will decide basically whether or not Mr Bowles is freed.
But we come back again and again to the same point. Here we are after three years; no evidence that could have cleared Mr Bowles, if it had been presented during the main trail, was presented until after the conviction and only in front of the sentencing court.
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