Botnar's arrest warrant stands despite payment

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The Independent Online
Octav Botnar, the former head of the company that imported Nissan cars into Britain, is to challenge the validity of the Inland Revenue arrest warrant that effectively prevents him returning to Britain.

The move follows yesterday's confirmation that the 83-year-old Mr Botnar had agreed to pay the Revenue pounds 59m to settle a pounds 250m corporation tax bill that had been disputed for five years. However, the Revenue pointed out that the warrant issued while Mr Botnar, who lives in Switzerland and travels to homes in Germany and Spain, was abroad still stood.

Mark Spragg, a partner with the London solicitors Jeffrey Green Russell, who has been representing Mr Botnar for the past three years, said he expected to issue proceedings against the Revenue this week on the grounds that the warrant had been kept in place for "ulterior motives". He said Mr Botnar believed the Revenue had "hamstrung" his case by preventing him and key witnesses from travelling to Britain to give evidence at proceedings due to have begun in front of the special tax commissioners yesterday.

Though it is usual for settlements of this type to state that criminal proceedings have been abandoned, sources close to Mr Botnar claim that he refused to co-operate with the system by admitting any guilt and negotiating to have the warrant lifted.

In a statement issued on his behalf yesterday, Mr Botnar alleged that his company, which is now little more than a property holding company, had been destroyed by connivance between the Revenue and Nissan of Japan, which wanted to take over the UK dealerships.

He also reiterated claims that Nissan UK did not owe "a penny of corporation tax" and said he was paying the money "to avoid another five years of frustration, litigation and enormous expenditure" on a case in which he is convinced he cannot obtain justice. "I am a man of principle, honesty and charity. I believe in fair play. The absence of fair play on the part of the Revenue persuaded us to settle so as to rid ourselves of this problem, which has robbed five years of my life," he said. He urged the Revenue to donate the money to the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Sources close to Mr Botnar insist that though the payment of more than pounds 50m might look like an admission of guilt, the money does not matter to him. Mr Spragg said: "To him, the money is totally insignificant."

The Revenue would only say that the dispute between themselves and NUK had been resolved in a commercial settlement and that "all civil proceedings between the two parties" were being discontinued.

The affair began in June 1991 when the Revenue launched a raid at the Worthing headquarters of the business that Mr Botnar had built up over the previous two decades.

At the time of the raid, Mr Botnar was on holiday in Switzerland with his wife, and after he decided not to return, the Revenue issued a warrant for his arrest.

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