Botnar sues Revenue for `malicious prosecution'

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The Independent Online
OCTAV BOTNAR, the 84-year-old founder of Nissan UK, yesterday began legal proceedings for damages against the Inland Revenue alleging malicious prosecution, in the latest twist to the six-year saga over fraud allegations.

Advisers close to Mr Botnar, who has been living in Switzerland since a Revenue raid on Nissan UK's Worthing offices in 1991, said he wanted to "get back into court and have his day".

In a writ served yesterday, Mr Botnar claimed the Inland Revenue based its case on "speculation" in an effort to destroy Nissan UK's business. The writ said that after 18 months of investigations, involving visits to nine countries and 200 witness statements, it was obvious that the Revenue had uncovered no evidence of fraud by the company.

Two former Revenue special investigators are also named in the writ, both of whom have left the organisation to work for big accountancy firms. They are Robert Brown, now with Ernst & Young, and John Cawdron, who has joined Price Waterhouse. The Revenue last night confirmed it had received the writ, but declined to comment further.

Mr Botnar is claiming damages against the Revenue to cover financial loss and mental anguish. "There has been extensive, humiliating, offensive and degrading publicity generated by the continuance of the prosecution," the writ said, adding that damages would be paid to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre appeal.

The legal move follows the Revenue's decision to withdraw two arrest warrants against Mr Botnar last November on health grounds. He was yesterday said to be "extremely likely" to return to Britain for the court case later this year .

"He's had shame and derision poured down on him and he's desperate to put his side of the story. This matters more to him than anything," said a friend.

Nissan UK agreed to pay the Revenue pounds 59m in 1996 as a corporation tax settlement, though Mr Botnar has since regretted the move. He is also appealing against a separate court ruling ordering him to pay some pounds 68m in taxes on dividends paid to a charitable trust.