Gary Lineker's brother jailed for £220,000 tax fraud

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The Independent Online

For 18 months sports bar owner Wayne Lineker systematically smuggled cash into Britain using a "tried and tested" money mule system of unsuspecting family and friends.

Once here, bundles of pesetas and escudos from pubs in Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands were laundered into sterling, London's Southwark Crown Court heard.

Initially the cash was "thoroughly cleaned up" at bureaux de change. Later City stockbroker John Stacey was brought in to secure a better exchange rate.

Recruited to the conspiracy with a series of four-figure sweeteners and a holiday in Portugal, he siphoned it through several NatWest bank accounts before handing it back to the businessman.

Lineker, whose brother presents Match of the Day and who captained England during a glittering international career, admitted one count of conspiracy to defraud the Inland Revenue between 1999 and 2001.

The 43-year-old businessman, who boasts a £2m mansion in Fyfield, Essex, owns eight pubs and has franchises on three others, stood with his hands clasped in front of him as Judge Stephen Robbins told him: "You through your counsel accept prime responsibility for initiating this conspiracy which was sustained over a period of about 18 months ... and led to a loss of £90,000 tax including interest.

"You also drew into the conspiracy your right-hand man David Hodges."

The judge said the Court of Appeal had made it clear that defrauding the Inland Revenue was a "serious offence because it means defrauding the vast majority of honest taxpayers".

As a result he would not only be jailed for two-and-a-half years but face a further 24 months if he failed to pay a £90,000 confiscation order.

As the disgraced businessman - whose sentence could have "disastrous consequences" for his pub chain and staff - bowed his head in apparent shame, the judge turned to Hodges, his manager and "trusted lieutenant" in crime.

The 43-year-old of Rosebank, Waltham Abbey, Essex, who pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge, showed no reaction as he was given a 20-month sentence.

The judge told him: "You admitted that not only were you well aware of what was taking place, but advised Lineker what he was doing was illegal. Despite that, you lent yourself very actively and for a long time to this conspiracy."

Next to be dealt with was Hodges' close friend Stacey, who has since turned to taxi-driving since losing his job as an administrative assistant at NatWest stockbrokers.

Stacey was convicted of conspiracy after a two-week trial earlier this year.

Jailing the 56-year-old, of Lifstan Way, Southend, Essex, for 18 months the judge told him: "You worked in the City in the stockbroking world and you were in a position of trust and responsibility... which you used and abused to conceal the proceeds of this tax fraud, collecting carrier bags full of foreign currency from Hodges.

"Akin to burglars and thieves who need fences to dispose of their ill-gotten gains, your co-defendants, who wished to avoid tax liabilities, benefited from the services you provided," he said.