VAT query on 2m pounds Jolliffe toy deal

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The Independent Online
SIR Anthony Jolliffe, a former Lord Mayor of London, is being quizzed by Customs & Excise over the pounds 2m sale of an antique toy train collection carried out through bankrupt toy dealer Jeffrey Levitt.

The inquiry centres on whether Sir Anthony, a past president of the London Chamber of Commerce, is liable to pay around pounds 300,000 in VAT on the apparently profitable deal.

An avid collector of classic cars as well as antique toys, the 54-year-old Sir Anthony carried out a number of toys deals with Mr Levitt - dubbed the King of Toytown in London's auction rooms - in the late 1980s.

Mr Levitt, who is facing fraud charges, built up a fortune through his Mint & Boxed toy company, opening offices in the City and Manhattan where he dealt with collectors including Frank Sinatra and the Forbes publishing family. But to the embarrassment of the Government, Mr Levitt's empire collapsed in June 1991 amid allegations of fraud just six weeks after he received the Queen's Award for Exports.

Sir Anthony, an accountant who was until recently a consultant with Grant Thornton, bought the toy trains from Mr Levitt for pounds 1.4m and was offered an option under which he could sell the collection back for pounds 2.5m some two years later.

The collection was in fact sold early for about pounds 2m, apparently yielding Sir Anthony a profit of pounds 600,000. It is thought that Sir Anthony intended to sell to overseas rather than UK buyers. VAT is not payable on exports.

But the ultimate buyer turned out to be London-based Robert Fraser, the merchant bank (then backed by the late Robert Maxwell), and one of Fraser's clients. As a result Customs & Excise is looking into VAT payment by Sir Anthony on the deal.

It is not clear just how much Sir Anthony, who could not be contacted last week, in fact made from the seemingly lucrative deal, since at the time of the collapse of Mint & Boxed he was owed substantial sums by the company.

Sir Anthony, who housed a private motor museum at his Buckinghamshire estate, was prominent in the City in the 1980s and, at one stage, was director of about 50 companies including Brent Walker. But his City standing suffered with the failure of his plans to turn Walker Greenbank, the wall-coverings and automatic car- wash group, into a conglomerate with a stock market valuation of pounds 250m. In 1988 the shares collapsed after serious financial problems emerged at Alkar International, a supermarket shelving business Walker Greenbank had taken over the previous year.

Sir Anthony resigned as chairman on doctor's orders in May 1989 and Walker Greenbank's new management team began a major disposal programme. He joined Brent Walker in April 1990, replacing his former accountancy partner Sir Kenneth Cork, but resigned eight months later in December 1990.

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