Tax fraud barrister loses appeal against confiscation order

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7 May 2015


rcj

Andrews J: “no question” of former barrister being unable to pay

Michael Stannard, a former barrister convicted of cheating the public revenue of over £3m, has failed in his latest attempt to challenge a confiscation order made against him.

Mr Stannard, who moved to Switzerland after his jail term, is currently in contempt of court for failing to co-operate with the Enforcement Receiver. He was jailed for four and a half years in 2001, and all his appeals were dismissed.

Mrs Justice Andrews said there was “no question” of Mr Stannard being unable to pay the balance of the confiscation order, which stands at £1.16m, as “on his own admission” he is living in a property, a flat in Verbier, worth more than that.

“There is no need for the court to grant declaratory relief, especially to someone who is in contempt of court, so as to confirm what he already knows but is patently unwilling to accept,” Andrews J said.

“He has fought tooth and nail to avoid paying anything, and made life as difficult as possible for the Enforcement Receiver, with the result that there is still such a substantial amount outstanding ten and a half years after the generous deadline set for payment.”

Andrews J said she had “formed the clear impression” that Mr Stannard was “wholly unrepentant”.

She went on: “In reality he is still doing his level best to avoid making any further payment, to go behind decisions unfavourable to him that have already been made by the court and which he has not appealed, to re-run arguments he has already lost, and to put the CPS and the Enforcement Receiver to as much further trouble and expense as possible, presumably in the hope that they will give up and go away.

“He has coupled this behaviour with unfounded criticisms of the Enforcement Receiver, who on the evidence before me has simply done what the court has directed him to do.”

The court heard in Re In the Matter of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 [2015] EWHC 1199 (Admin), that Mr Stannard’s flat in Verbier, “said to be his only remaining asset of value”, was estimated by him in a letter in March 2012 to be worth £1,456,000 at the prevailing exchange rates.

He was represented in court by Mark Hardy, who described himself in the application as a ‘litigation friend’, which Andrews J said was inaccurate.

Instead, using her discretion, she allowed him to address the court as a McKenzie Friend. However, she said: “Mr Hardy’s interests are plainly best served by Mr Stannard ceasing to be obstructive, and as he is not a lawyer, he would not necessarily appreciate the difference between an argument that is likely to fail, and an argument that cannot properly be advanced.

“That is why it suited Mr Stannard’s interests to make use of Mr Hardy as his mouthpiece.”

Andrews J said that Mr Stannard’s application, apparently to find out how much of the confiscation order he still had to pay, was “in reality” an attempt to challenge the amount of his confiscation order and argue about the Enforcement Receiver’s remuneration. She dismissed the application on all grounds.

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One Response to “Tax fraud barrister loses appeal against confiscation order”

  1. I have only just seen this article of two years ago and perhaps I may be permitted some comments. Mr. Hardy, a long term friend, suggested challenging the exorbitant costs charged by the Enforcement Receiver. This form of legalised piracy is clearly intended as extra-statutory additional punishment as an ER can realise assets which the defendant in the original action cannot, such as, in my case, assets belonging to a third party (see below). There is no incentive to minimise costs as the CPS could not care less and the ER is rewarded for needless time and expenditure. For example, at a rate of remuneration of more than Pounds 300 an hour, did it make sense for the ER to sell a shareholding worth less than five pounds and remit the proceeds to the Courts and Tribunal Service? Is there a need always to involve assistants in chains of communications (adding an extra layer of costs), when only the ER has decision making power? I think the answer to both questions is obvious.

    The ER did succeed in selling assets in France belonging to a company which had been struck off and was incapable of resuscitation, presumably persuading some incompetent French notary that he had power so to do based on an English receivership against me personally. At least in that he did me a favour as I clearly could not have sold those assets, which were bona vacantia.

    Of the Pounds 1,600,000 confiscation order, nearly one quarter was attributable to an asset held by the High Court to belong to a third party and not to me. The High Court’s reasoning was exactly along the lines of my submission to the Crown Court during the confiscation hearing, so that one has two conflicting decisions of different courts and yet the CCRC, having referred a very similar case, Re Hackett [2013] EWCA Crim 1273, found an apparently non-existent distinction in my case and declined to refer it. Had the Crown Court found correctly, the order would have been 400,000 less, as, under English law, it could not exceed my “realisable property”.

    With the greatest, perhaps undeserved, respect to Andrews J, she might possibly understand why I treat the English courts with exasperation. The order in respect of which I am in contempt required me to surrender many documents to the Receiver, which the CPS already has from having downloaded the entire contents of my computer in 1997, and from other sources, and many which do not exist, e.g. “title deeds” to properties in France and Switzerland. Yes, I am supposed to surrender the keys to the flat here. I could easily comply with that part of the order and change the lock immediately thereafter, as the court order does not prevent me from so doing. Were I to sell the flat here, there would be a small practical problem, which is that I would simply not have a roof over my head, nor the means to provide one. I suppose I could return to live in the UK, 43 years after leaving it, and claim emergency council accommodation. It seems a bit much that someone can be forced to live in a country, in which he has absolutely no desire to live, for reasons which may be apparent to many.

    There are many bizarre aspects to the UK confiscation legislation. For example, the value of a realisable asset is ascertained without considering a tax liability, such as capital gains tax, which may arise on realising it. So you could sell an asset, remit the proceeds to the Courts and Tribunal Service, to comply with a confiscation order, and be unable to pay the tax arising on the sale.

    If anyone wishes to read a very good, unbiased, article on my case, I refer them to James Kessler’s, available here:

    https://www.taxation.co.uk/articles/2001/06/07/1087/what-lessons-learn-i

    As a matter of background, I left the United Kingdom in 1974 and bought the flat in Switzerland in 1985, so that my living there has precisely nothing to do with the case against me.

  2. Michael Stannard on May 2nd, 2017 at 2:53 pm

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