Ex-solicitor impersonated HMRC official to trick SRA into helping challenge strike-off
HMRC: five further charges will lay on the file
Paul Baxendale-Walker, a struck-off solicitor who went on to run an adult film company and Loaded magazine, has been fined after being found guilty of impersonating an official from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in dealings with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Mr Baxendale-Walker, 52 from Surrey, was struck off in 2007. Using a false name, he wrote to the SRA on what appeared to be HMRC-headed paper to try to get an admission of wrongdoing that would overturn the tribunal decision.
In August 2010, Mr Baxendale-Walker submitted a claim against the SRA and various individuals for £230m in damages, mainly representing lost revenue. He subsequently lost the case at the High Court, but during the proceedings, the judge indicated that he may have committed offences by impersonating an HMRC officer.
According to HMRC, Mr Baxendale-Walker had denied the charges against him, but last Friday pleaded guilty to one count of forgery. Five other counts of fraud will remain on file. He was fined £15,015 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £210,000 at Guildford Crown Court.
His Honour Judge Peter Moss, said: “Your intention in writing the letter was to lead the recipient to telling you things he would otherwise not have done. You determined by trick and underhand means to pursue an individual who was correctly employed by the SRA [Solicitors Regulatory Authority]. Such people are entitled to be protected from the harassment you subjected them to.”
HMRC described Mr Baxendale-Walker as “a well-known designer of tax avoidance schemes” and it also said “he has written extensively on the use of employee remuneration trusts to avoid tax”.
He bought lads’ mag Loaded out of administration in 2012, at which time The Guardian reported that he saw synergy with his existing businesses, including Bluebird Productions, which made “hundreds of X-rated movies, a number of which he directs and even occasionally stars in”. However, Loaded went back into administration in 2013.
In 2014, the Pensions Regulator took action against Mr Baxendale-Walker and various administration companies to put a stop to five connected pension ‘liberation’ schemes that received transfers totalling more than £134m from over 1,400 individuals.
The regulator said it was concerned that the schemes were established with the main purpose of providing a cash payment to the member rather than providing retirement benefits and that this constituted misuse or misappropriation of pension scheme monies.
The schemes sought to allow members to access their pension funds as cash through a supposed legal ‘loophole’. In May 2014, the High Court ruled that this supposed gap in the law did not exist, finding in the regulator’s favour on three preliminary legal issues.
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