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QC convicted of £600,000 VAT fraud

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A barrister who failed to declare or pay £627,839 of VAT over a period of 12 years was convicted at Blackfriars Crown Court last week of cheating the public revenue. HMRC said Rohan Pershad, aged 44, of London, spent the money on two luxury homes and private school fees for his children.

Pershad was deregistered for VAT in February 2000 following a history of failure to submit tax returns and to tell HMRC about a change of address, the department said in a press release.

‘This meant he was unable legally to trade above the VAT threshold, which was between £54,000 in 2001 and £67,000 in 2008. However, his self-assessment tax returns showed his income had increased from £85,000 in 2001 to £346,000 in 2008, breaching the VAT registration limit by £279,000. During this period he continued to use his invalid VAT number on invoices, meaning he was collecting the VAT on his fees but pocketing the money for himself rather than paying it to the public purse.’

No VAT was paid between June 1999 and September 2011. Pershad will be sentenced on 26 February, and confiscation proceedings are underway.

The Financial Times quoted Keri Ashworth-Beaumont, specialist prosecutor from the CPS central fraud division, as saying: ‘By convicting him today, the jury has concluded that Pershad was acting dishonestly and his failure to pay was not simply an error or mistake. He claimed that his Chambers had given the impression that payment of his VAT had been taken care of, but the jury clearly rejected that assertion.’

A statement from 39 Essex Street Chambers said: ‘It is and always has been clear that all members of these Chambers, in common with all other self-employed barristers, are personally responsible to account to, and pay, HMRC for VAT received, and for income tax, and it is right that tax evasion should be appropriately punished when proved. On notice of his prosecution, Rohan agreed to the voluntary suspension of his membership of Chambers pending the outcome of the trial, and given the circumstances he will no longer be a member.’

Donald Toon, HMRC director of criminal investigation, said: ‘Pershad’s 12-year history of tax evasion was blatant theft from the public purse. He thought he was above the law, but someone in his profession should have known better than to try to cheat the system, as HMRC will not stand by while criminals try to cheat the taxpayer. Declaring and paying VAT that is due is a legal requirement – not a lifestyle choice – so we are pleased that justice has been served. We would like to thank the chambers involved for their assistance in this case.’

HMRC announced last September that it expected a new legal profession taskforce was expected to yield £3m from investigations into the tax affairs of barristers and solicitors in London.