Andrew Fishwick, a West End producer, has been jailed for 20 months after pleading guilty to cheating the public revenue out of more than £200,000.
Fishwick, whose company The Fish Partnership boasts credits including Little Voice and Three Days of Rain, appeared at Southwark Crown Court on Monday to be sentenced for four counts of cheating the public revenue between October 2006 and January 2007.
Fishwick had already plead guilty at a hearing earlier this year.
The court heard that Fishwick had abused the Gift Aid scheme which allows charities to claim tax on donations back from HMRC.
Fishwick had ploughed a total of £200,256.38 into a bank account in his name.
Judge Peter Testar said:-
“The Gift Aid scheme is a scheme which it seems to me depends very largely on trust. It is a scheme which is vital to the prosperity of thousands of charities and the work that they do.
It was a fraud from the very beginning and it was a fraud which really depended on the trust which lies at the heart of the Gift Aid scheme.”
At the time of the claims, Fishwick had been working with Word of Mouth Theatre, run by David Salter, on a production called Broadway in the Shadows.
The court heard that Fishwick was responsible for managing the production’s finances and had claimed tax back from, what it later emerged were non-existent donations from a number of high-profile individuals. The money was paid back into his own company’s bank account.
The producer submitted forms to HMRC claiming back money and were signed Salter on behalf of Word of Mouth. The company is in fact a registered charity.
However, HMRC soon launched an investigation into the claims and found that documentary evidence, including bank statements, which were provided by Fishwick had been doctored.
Salter admitted, once approached by HMRC, that he did not know anything about the claims or the donations and stated that Word of Mouth’s production was being funded by the Arts Council and not by private donations.
Those who had been listed as having given donations to the production were approached by HMRC and all denied they had made a donation to the company.
Fishwick, in addition to his jail sentence of 20 months, was also disqualified from being a director for 6 years.
If you are under investigation by HMRC on suspicion of tax evasion then you need to seek professional advice.
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