Conductor admits £4.3m tax fraud on phantom musical instruments

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The Independent Online

A British conductor who admitted making fraudulent tax refund claims against millions of dollars' worth of musical instruments is awaiting sentence in a New Zealand prison cell.

David John Lindup, 30, falsely claimed to have bought the instruments for the Nelson Symphony Orchestra, which he directed. He also allegedly embellished his CV to suggest he played with British orchestras that say they have no record of him.

The Oxford graduate fabricated tax invoices and import certificates before applying to the inland revenue for refunds of Goods and Services Tax (GST), a value-added tax, on phantom instruments including violins, violas and cellos.

Lindup, who was born in Bath, moved to the small city of Nelson at the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island in 2001 with his partner and three children.

Between February and November of last year, Lindup Holdings Ltd, a company of which Lindup was the sole shareholder and director, was credited with £344,508 (NZ$866,733) for GST returns on musical equipment that he did not buy. Lindup in fact launched GST claims for £531,000, which would equate to him buying £4.33m worth of instruments. All the funds in Lindup's bank account had been withdrawn by the end of last year.

He spent £208,150 of the GST money refunded to him on three properties; a further £61,800 on other companies of which he was the sole director; and transferred £16,940 to bank accounts overseas.

Lindup was remanded in custody earlier this month and is due to be sentenced on 4 June.

A biography of Lindup posted on the website of The Nelson School of Music, where he taught, suggested that, after he graduated from Oxford University, he performed with several orchestras in London, including the Royal College of Music, and Academy of St Martin in the Fields as well as the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Dominic Jewel, a broadcast assistant at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, allegedly emailed The Nelson Mail newspaper, which broke news of Lindup's arrest, to say that the orchestra had no record of working with Lindup.

Dawn Day, of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, said there were records of everyone who had played with the academy but Lindup's name was not among them. Lindup maintains through his lawyer, John Sandston, that he did play with the orchestras but it was only on a casual basis.

Richard Wells, the chairman of the Nelson Symphony Orchestra, said his community were bewildered by Lindup's prosecution. "He's very, very good with the orchestra. We love him."