An obstructive accountant who failed to cooperate with a tax fraud investigation has been fined £25,000.
In an historic first for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the accountant has been told to cough up £25,000 for failing to comply with disclosure notices.
Anil Shah, 66, an accountant from Middlesex, refused to assist HMRC officers who were investigating suspected tax evasion by his clients, despite being served with the legally binding documents.
Shah was warned that if he didn’t pay the fine within 28 days he would face 18 months in prison.
The disclosure notices, which require individuals to share paperwork and information with HMRC when part of a criminal investigation, were ignored by Shah.
When challenged by investigators, he made a number of statements that were found to be totally untrue.
This included saying that he didn’t act for clients, when he did.
Simon York, director of the fraud investigation service at HMRC, said: “As a professional accountant Shah's role was to offer sound advice to his clients and comply with HMRC regulations.
“Instead he abused his privileged position, knowingly broke the law, and failed in his professional duties.
“HMRC is determined to clamp down on financial crime. Today’s result sends a clear message to anyone who is considering trying to cover up tax fraud – nobody is beyond our reach.
“If you commit or help others to commit a financial crime, HMRC can and will come after you and you too could end up paying the price or finding yourself behind bars.”
During sentencing, His Honour Judge Topolski QC told the defendant: “You said you only dealt with payroll and bluntly you lied.
"As for culpability, what you did, did impede the proper efficient and fair investigation of serious crime. You had no choice to plead guilty and you knew it."
"Bluntly, you lied in response to this disclosure notice."
Kristin Jones, head of the specialist fraud division at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Anil Shah was an accountant who abused his position as a professional adviser and hid his clients’ criminal actions from the public eye.
“This case demonstrates the repercussions of a refusal to cooperate with the authorities.”
Two of Shah’s clients were jailed for seven years in 2015 for a £1.2m VAT fraud.
A further trial of a number of his, now, former clients recently concluded and they are due to be sentenced on 20 October 2016 at Southwark Crown Court.
Shah's fine came as Prime Minister Theresa May promised to "come after" financial advisers who help clients avoid tax.
Speaking on the final day of the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Ms May said, while the Conservatives believed in a "low-tax economy", they also recognised taxation was the inevitable price "for living in a civilised society".