Evidence found that points to tax fraud at Vanquish Options

Emails and other documents linking Vanquish Options and the husband of ex-Tory peer Michelle Mone, Doug Barrowman, suggest that there are grounds to open a criminal investigation into Vanquish Options.

According to tax experts, financial records suggest that Mr Barrowman is linked to a series of tax avoidance companies that may have assisted their clients in submitting misleading claims to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The thinktank Tax Policy Associates says that the documents raise questions about whether the companies in question and those connected to them, should be investigated for any role they played in providing misleading information to HMRC about tax affairs.

Mr Barrowman has previously denied involvement in Vanquish Options. Still, one of his other firms, AML Tax (UK) Ltd, was fined £150,000 in 2022 by a tax tribunal and HMRC said it was part of his Isle of Man-based Knox Group, which the Revenue claims “aggressively” promoted tax avoidance schemes in the UK.

Through AML Tax (UK) Ltd, schemes were sold to self-employed contractors promising that they could avoid UK income tax by having their earnings funnelled into an offshore trust.

The trust would then transfer the cash back to the contractor as a loan, which would supposedly never need to be repaid, as loans, unlike wages, are not subject to income tax.

However, the Government brought in new legislation in 2016 to clamp down on such schemes, meaning that individuals who had accrued offshore loans liable for “loan charges” were made to pay back the income tax they had avoided retrospectively.

Now the new documentary evidence suggests that in 2019, AML clients caught up in the crackdown were advised to contact Vanquish Options to pay a large fee to swap their existing loan for another loan, in which case their loan charge problem would ‘go away’.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “HMRC and prosecutors will be required to carry out a thorough investigation, including a forensic deep-dive into the relationships between Vanquish Options and AML Tax (UK) Ltd.

“This will likely involve the expertise of a range of forensic accountants, who will review transactions and communications between these organisations to assist the court to determined what happened from a financial perspective.

“It would be interesting to know to what extent the interest being shown by HMRC has been piqued by Mr Barrowman’s connection to the well-publicised accusations levelled at his wife and former Conservative peer, Michelle Mone in relation to the PPE scandal.”


Sources: BBC News

Posted in The Forensic Blog.