Senior barrister who specialised in fraud cases guilty of VAT scam


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The Independent Online

A senior barrister and expert in fraud cases was convicted today after he “disappeared off the VAT radar” in a “preposterous” ploy to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax.

Rohan Pershad QC, pocketed the money which he used to splash out on two properties worth more than £1.5 million.

The "financially astute" lawyer from Hammersmith, west London, accrued more than £600,000 over a 12-year period as part of the scam.

He was today found guilty of cheating the public revenue at London's Blackfriars Crown Court after the jury was asked to give a majority verdict following more than nine hours of deliberations.

Pershad, wearing a grey suit and blue tie, showed little emotion as the verdict was given.

He is due to be sentenced on February 26 and was released on bail until then.

During his nine-day trial, jurors heard that most barristers were self-employed and were legally required to pay their own VAT.

But Pershad stopped doing so in 1999, shortly before he moved to the Thirty Nine Essex Street chambers.

He then fell off the tax register, meaning he "disappeared off the VAT radar" and was classed as a "missing trader".

But he carried on working.

Prosecutor Andrew Marshall told the court: "Through all of that time, he was collecting the VAT.

"It's just that for that period of 12 years, whilst it was being collected in, it wasn't being accounted for or handed over as VAT.

"It provided him, if you think about it, with a private, tax-free income because VAT was not being paid. This money, it stayed with Mr Pershad."

His online CV depicted a lawyer with a "particular expertise in fraud cases," Mr Marshall added.

"This is a man that is used to looking at other people's business and dissecting it and finding fault in it," he told jurors.

The lawyer - who specialised in financial disputes, professional negligence and insurance cases - used the money he saved in VAT to buy two homes.

He splashed out on a property in Somerset for £490,000 in July 2007 and then, a month later, another in Virginia Water, Surrey, for £1,105,000.

Pershad denied the charge against him, claiming he believed Thirty Nine Essex Street paid his VAT.

But his defence - branded "preposterous" by the prosecution - was rejected by the jury.

Donald Toon, director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said: "Pershad's 12-year history of tax evasion was blatant theft from the public purse.

"He thought he was above the law, but someone in his profession should have known better than to try to cheat the system, as HMRC will not stand by while criminals try to cheat the taxpayer.

"Declaring and paying VAT that is due is a legal requirement - not a lifestyle choice - so we are pleased that justice has been served. We would like to thank the chambers involved for their assistance in this case."