‘Trusted’ barrister, 57, who stole more than £98K in tax after lying about his earnings is jailed for nearly two years
A ‘trusted’ barrister who stole more than £98,000 in tax after lying about his earnings has been jailed for nearly two years.
Christopher Wilkins, 57, of Chichester, West Sussex, stole £98,732 in tax by deliberately understating his income and inflating his expenses over a five-year period.
HMRC has reported that during this time, the established barrister earned £740,000, but was still massively in debt.
The heavily indebted barrister was paying for his children to attend a £5,000-a-month private school and tried to sell his home to keep creditors at bay, reports SomersetLive.
According to HMRC, when he was arrested in May 2017, Wilkins said he was ‘behind on his VAT payments’.
Christopher Wilkins, 57, of Chichester, West Sussex, has been jailed for nearly two years after having stolen more than £98,000 in tax by lying about his income and expenses to HMRC
During an investigation into these claims, Wilkins’ VAT declarations compared to those provided by his chambers where he worked revealed he had lied about his income to reduce the amount of tax he paid.
At Taunton Crown Court last November, Wilkins pleaded guilty to VAT fraud and was jailed for 21 months at the same court on Thursday (Jan 12).
He admitted one charge of fraudulently evading VAT relating to a five-year period between March 2012 and June 2017, when Wilkins made some false returns and an extensive period when no returns were made at all.
According to SomersetLive, Wilkins – who was called to the bar in 1993 – left legal work in 2005, at which point he got into substantial debt due to overseas property investments that lost value with the real estate crash of 2008.
Wilkins returned to legal work in 2011 and entered into an Individual Voluntary Agreement (IVA) in 2013 to settle up his debt with HMRC and stave off bankruptcy.
However, the IVA did not include all of the VAT that he owed, with prosecuting barrister Mr Paul Grumbar saying Wilkins ‘should have known that’.
Wilkins owed £13,000 to his own chambers, and he had also built up debt with his children’s private school.
Mr Charles Bott QC, defending, said: ‘He cuts a sad figure and the degree of physical, emotional and mental damage this has caused, even though it is a process brought on by himself, is terribly apparent.
‘He is a walking parable of what can happen to a good man when he gets into debt.’
According to Wilkins’ defence barrister, he had landed himself into trouble with HMRC because he had put his children’s high private schooling fees above all else.
Mr Charles Bott QC, defending in the case held at Taunton Crown Court (pictured), said Christopher Wilkins got into trouble with HMRC because he had put his children’s expensive private schooling above all else
Zoe Ellerbeck, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: ‘As a trusted barrister, Christopher Wilkins should have known better than to try and cheat the system.
‘Nobody is above the law and tax fraud is not a victimless crime. People who defraud HMRC are stealing from their community by taking money away from hospitals, schools, and other vital public services.
‘We are committed to tackling criminals whose tax crime robs our vital public services of much-needed funds.
‘Anyone with information about tax fraud should report it to HMRC online.’
A spokesman for HMRC said after the sentencing: ‘He was charged in February 2020 for being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of VAT between March 2012 and June 2017.
‘Mr Wilkins pleaded guilty to this charge at Taunton Crown Court on November 22, 2021 and was sentenced to 21 months in prison at the same court on January 12, 2022.’