Accused revenue man tells of gun-toting tax evaders

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The Independent Online
A senior tax official accused of bribery and corruption explained yesterday how he confronted gunmen armed with Kalashnikov rifles in his quest to reclaim unpaid tax for the Inland Revenue.

Michael Allcock was giving evidence on the opening day of the defence in his Old Bailey trial. He told jurors how his secret team of tax investigators operated in a clandestine way to reclaim large sums from rich foreigners who owed substantial back-taxes to the Crown.

On one occasion, Mr Allcock went to Spain to collect tax from a Middle Eastern millionaire. "There were a lot of Lebanese gunmen present and I was told how one had previously assassinated a former Prime Minister in Paris," said Mr Allcock. "The man I was negotiating with always had a pistol at his side and he had a number of armed bodyguards in the house the whole time."

Earlier, Anthony Arlidge QC, outlining the case for the defence, painted the picture of a talented but flawed man who had become one of the Inland Revenue's highest fliers.

"Michael Allcock was one of the most effective, if not the most effective tax gatherer in the special office," said Mr Arlidge.

Mr Allcock would go where no one had ventured before and his group often topped a league table of results, the QC added.

But he went on to describe how the pressure of work combined with his wife being diagnosed as having cancer led him into the arms of a prostitute. However, the lawyer stressed that the court was not to judge his morals, only whether or not he was guilty of corruption.

"You may think that he behaved like a four-letter man towards his wife, no doubt, but we are not a court of morals, let alone one of sexual politics. We are to consider not that he behaved badly, but was he corrupt," Mr Arlidge said.

Mr Allcock's affair with the former model and call girl Michelle Corrigan began in 1989. His wife first became ill in 1988 and it was shortly after this that he and his wife took two holidays paid for by a businessman from the Middle East.

But Mr Allcock denies this was bribery, as the businessman had no tax liability at the time of the holidays and only funded the trips out of generosity and in order to aid Mrs Allcock's recuperation.

Having left school at 16 with only five O-levels, Mr Allcock's rise to the senior position of group leader within the Inland Revenue had been spectacular.

He joined the Colchester district tax office in 1966. Trained and qualified as a tax inspector, he was spotted as a recruit for the elite special- office team based in London in 1983. "Special office was an investigative office set up to investigate avoidance and evasion of tax not appropriate to any other office," said Mr Allcock.

"I was told that we were the bottom line. When I started, I was given an empty desk and a telephone and told to get on with it. We were told to set our own agenda, we were the cutting edge and our rules and procedures were outside normal rules and procedures."

Special-office investigators were encouraged to go and cultivate their own sources of intelligence and information. Soon after starting at the special office, Mr Allcock used an acquaintance of his wife to arrange an informal visit to the Stock Exchange.

Mr Allcock's outgoing personality helped him form a number of personal relationships with Stock Exchange officials that led to a mutually beneficial co-operation between the Revenue and market regulators.These contacts set Mr Allcock and his team on a series of trails that were eventually to net the Inland Revenue many millions of pounds in unpaid taxes.

One of the charges against the taxman relates to his receiving or accepting pounds 155,000 in cash in bribes from foreign businessmen. For the defence, Mr Arlidge argued that Mr Allcock would give evidence to explain how he came by the money.

Mr Arlidge told the jury that a childless elderly couple gave substantial sums of money to Mr Allcock and his wife Sally. "They came to regard Sally as the daughter they never had," said Mr Arlidge.

Mr Allcock, 47, from Colchester, Essex, pleads not guilty to 11 charges of bribery and corruption between 1987 and 1992. Hishan Alwan, 56, a consultant oil dealer from west London, denies three charges of attempting to bribe the Inland Revenue official.

The trial continues.