Revenue makes first tax charge extradition

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The Independent Online

The Inland Revenue has put its new extradition powers to use for the first time, bringing home an alleged inheritance tax (IHT) fraudster, accused of embezzling both his aunt and his brother, and of dodging an IHT bill of more than £160,000.

John Gardner Braes Lamberton is being held on remand in an Edinburgh prison, after being arrested in Spain last August. He will face trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 31 May. Until recently, the Revenue lacked powers to extradite alleged tax fraudsters from within the EU, leading many to flee only as far as Spain, earning it the nickname Costa del Crime.

Mr Lamberton left the country at the end of the 1990s after the death of his aunt, Mrs Paul. He had been granted power of attorney for her affairs in 1996, and was responsible for her finances until she died two years later. Revenue records show that in 1996, Mrs Paul had investments of more than £400,000 held with the Bank of Scotland. However, these allegedly were not declared on either of her tax returns in 1997 and1998, or within her IHT return when she died. Mr Lamberton had responsibility for completion of all these documents.

Assets can be exempt from IHT only if they were gifted more than seven years before the owner died. However, the Revenue claimed Mrs Paul's accounts revealed that she had not sold the investments before she died, or transferred them.

The Revenue said an investigation discovered that Mr Lamberton had sold the investments and transferred the proceeds to his own bank account. He had then transferred the money to various share dealing accounts.

After using brokers in Manchester under his own name, he transferred to an Edinburgh broker, and began trading under a newly established company called Tagetrade Ltd, which was registered in the British Virgin Islands and had a bank account in the Isle of Man. During this process, the Revenue noted that more than £400,000 was moved from the UK to Guernsey, and then to the Isle of Man, before returning to the UK.

The Revenue caught up with Mr Lamberton initially in Londonderry in May 2000, at which time he was en route to Spain. He was interviewed by the officer investigating his case, but denied all the charges against him.

He was finally tracked down again last May in Alicante, where he was working as an estate agent. After his arrest on 5 August, Mr Lamberton refused to be extradited under the new fast track procedures, instead opting to remain in prison in Spain for several months until formal extradition procedures had been completed. He was finally moved back to the UK earlier this year.