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Jailed solicitor must repay £3m or face more prison time

Old Bailey: Two-week hearing

A jailed solicitor involved in the UK’s biggest ever tax fraud must repay £3m of his ill-gotten gains or face a further nine years in prison, a judge at the Old Bailey has ruled.

Rodney Whiston-Dew was jailed for 10 years [1] in November 2017 after being convicted of one count of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, and one count of acting with intent to prejudice or defraud HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Investors were told their money would be spent on research and development into carbon credits for largely fake environmental projects in Brazil and China, but only £16m of the £65m was actually spent on planting trees.

Instead, the group of six fraudsters stole £20m of the investors’ money and laundered it via bank accounts and secret trusts, spending it on luxury properties in London, Australia and Dubai as well as hidden off-shore investments. They also failed to pay around £6.5million in tax.

Last Friday, after a two-week proceeds of crime hearing, Mr Whiston-Dew, 68, was ordered to pay just over £3m within three months or he faces an additional nine years added onto his existing sentence.

Four of the other men have been ordered to pay more than £17m between them.

Manjula Nayee, a specialist prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) proceeds of crime division, said: “These men used their elite background to persuade people to part with their money, resulting in a huge loss to the victims and the public purse.

“Seizing these assets shows that we will do everything we can to ensure that criminals do not profit by exploiting others.”

The CPS said the vast amount of evidence gathered to support its case resulted in an opening argument of more than 100 pages for the heavily contested hearing.

The defence argued that each money launderer had little in the way of available assets, but the CPS was able to show these claims were false by identifying £20.6m of available assets.

In Mr Whiston-Dew’s original trial, Mr Justice Edis said he “sold himself to greed” and was used as general counsel to the scheme, “in particular to deal with the parts which were too dishonest to be shown to any honest solicitor”.

Earlier this year, Mr Whiston-Dew agreed to be struck off [2] as a solicitor while insisting that he did nothing more than “major English law firms” do for international clients every day.