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Affected by HMRC enquiry into football image rights?

The blaze of publicity surrounding the high profile raids both in U.K.and France on Wednesday 26/4/2017, brings renewed focus on tax avoidance / evasion in Premier league football.

HMRC have described the raids on Newcastle United and West Ham as 'criminal investigations' , and following a request for Mutual Legal Assistance from the French Judicial authorities last year, simultaneous raids and arrests were made in both Countries.

What is it all about?

Apparently and according to various press reports ( The Financial Times ) there are a number of strands to the investigation including the suspicions of 'illicit ' Payments made to players / managers :the use of offshore corporate vehicles for the receipts of monies paid for the use of image or personality , and the concern that such payments are in effect 'disguised remuneration '( avoiding the usual income tax and National insurance rates but availing of heavily reduced Corporation tax rates) Presumably the involvement of the French Judicial authorities implies that the major focus is upon the number of French players / managers who have or are playing in the Premier League and who have been encouraged by their advisers to exploit off shore corporate vehicles .

What are image or personality rights?

Legally these are intellectual property rights surrounding a player or managers image e.g. Trademark , copyright contractual rights , however HMRC are correctly of the view that image or personality rights do not exist in UK law per se - just the intellectual property rights.

The incredible financial value of these 'image rights 'were recognized in the early 2000s and has been highlighted by Wayne Rooney 'image rights ' earnings of £750,000 per an ( disclosed in 2010) and Manchester United's battle with HMRC over a disputed £5.3 million , also in the same year .
Players and / or managers would, upon advice set up Image Rights Companies ( IRCs)and would happily pay the lower Corporation tax of 20% rather than the higher rate personal income tax rate of 45% and National insurance rates, so it was a very attractive proposition for any Premier League player or Manager.

One of the issues, is that not all those who availed of the IRCs were immediately ... er ...recognizable, and their image or personality were not quite as valuable as they may have thought , certainly not according to HMRC.

These investigations have been a long time coming , in December 2016 HMRC informed the Public Accounts Committee reported that their specialist team of investigators were closely looking at 43 players , eight agents and 12 clubs in connection with 'image rights 'payments. (Though The Mail reports that over 200 individuals are under investigation ) The Public Accounts Committee itself reported in January 2017 and concluded that these 'image rights ' arrangements were being exploited for tax avoidance .

The Premier League has set up a 'Voluntary Disclosure ' facility for Premier League clubs to report these arrangements to HMRC in the hope that they will be signed off with HMRCs blessing , the problem is that not all the clubs in that league have signed up to this VDF.

As we highlighted earlier, HMRC have labelled this particular investigation as a criminal investigation into £5million, but is it tax Evasion, which is a criminal offence, or tax avoidance which is not ?
This is of vital importance ... the sentences of imprisonment handed down for tax evasion are huge ( not forgetting the confiscation proceedings that will undoubtedly follow ) However tax avoidance attracts the civil penalty scheme. The Public Accounts Committees conclusions point to tax avoidance.

HMRC investigation and prosecutions - get expert advice

If you are under investigation or you feel that you are likely to be, then you will need immediate expert advice from lawyers equally as familiar with defending HMRC investigation and prosecutions in both the criminal and civil legal jurisdictions.

Jeffrey Lewis has been successfully defending such investigations for over 30 years and works closely with leading specialist barristers and accountants alike.

Please contact Jeffrey on 02073872032 or email or use our general onliYou can also use our online enquiry form.

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Laura Saunsbury interviewed live on BBC Radio Two by Jeremy Vine

bbc radio 2Yesterday morning our firearms law specialist Laura Saunsbury made a live guest appearance on the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio Two. Following the publication yesterday of a report by the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) of their investigation into Surrey Police Firearms Licensing Department, Laura was asked by the BBC to provide legal insight and analysis on whether there are adequate checks and controls on individuals who hold or apply for firearms and shotgun certificates.  

The IPCC report was commissioned after John Lowe, who had been issued a shotgun certificate by Surrey Police, fatally shot his partner Christine Lee and one of her daughters in February 2014.  Previously in 2013 Surrey Police had temporarily seized Mr Lowe’s shotguns and certificate from him when Ms Lee’s other daughter Stacy Banner reported to police that Mr Lowe had threatened to kill her whilst holding a shotgun in his hand. Four months later Surrey Police returned Mr Lowe’s guns to him after Ms Banner withdrew her allegation.

In its report the IPCC  has identified a series of failings by firearms licensing officers in Surrey Police to properly assess available evidence and Police intelligence held on Mr Lowe before making the decision to return his guns to him. The publication of the IPCC review should therefore not be used as a justification to call for tighter legal controls on the possession of firearms. Instead, as Laura observed in the BBC Radio interview, this case is a deeply tragic, but fortunately rare, example of how an adequate system of control can be in place but nevertheless things can go terribly wrong if Police firearms licensing departments are understaffed and there is a lack proper training and supervision.

To listen to the radio interview in full click on this link to the programme. The interview with Laura begins 7 minutes into the programme.  



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Siobhain Egan instructed by a Director of offshore trusts subject to a joint NCA/HMRC operation, following earlier international arrests precipitated by the release of the Panama Papers

offshore accountsSiobhain Egan has been instructed by a Director of offshore trusts, subject to a joint NCA/HMRC operation. This arose following earlier international arrests concerning a multi million VAT fraud which was precipitated by the release of the Panama Papers.

HMRC announced in April 2016 that they would immediately and aggressively investigate the huge amount of information affecting UK Nationals.

We have been asked to advise individuals who have made voluntary disclosures to HMRC about monies and assets off shore, who intend to bring the same on shore and by those concerned about criminal investigations and prosecutions.

The Revenue have no qualms about how this data was obtained or seemingly any concerns about the potential admissibility of the evidential material; it was effectively stolen after the law firm at the centre of the leak, Mossack Fonseca, was apparently hacked and the information passed to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

We know following the Swiss HSBC information theft in 2010, one individual was prosecuted by HMRC (successfully represented by Jeffrey Lewis of this firm) using information which showed that many hundreds of UK nationals held secret Swiss bank accounts.

We expect HMRC to adopt the same bullish approach with the Panama Papers, confident that the likely response to any legal arguments re exclusion of stolen evidence will be rejected by the Courts, and that the material will be deemed relevant and therefore admissible, regardless of the circumstances surrounding its acquisition.

In the HSBC investigation, HMRC were clear that they had not paid for the Swiss HSBC information and they would appear to be very sensitive about that particular issue, as we saw after the Julius Baer bank information theft in 2012, when HMRC released a very carefully worded response to that incident that they 'would not actively seek to acquire customer data stolen from the Swiss bank' because the employee responsible for the theft was paid by another tax authority for the information.

As yet, nobody knows the full circumstances of the Leaking of the Mossack Fonseca material.


If you are affected or likely to be affected by HMRC or NCA investigations into assets/monies held off shore, which could lead to tax evasion or money laundering prosecutions, please contact either Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan of Lewis Nedas Law, to discuss any if these issues. We work with leading tax investigation specialist accountants who can also assist.

Contact us on: 02073872032 or use our on line enquiry facility at

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Giovanni Lombardo interviewed by Sky Italia

press conferenceOur Italian law specialist, Giovanni Lombardo, has been interviewed by the Italian TV company Sky Italia about the differences between the criminal justice systems in Italy and England and Wales.

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Fare Evasion (in)justice on the horizon?

Fare Evasion costs rail companies millions of pounds each year ,and both the companies and government are determined to do something about it . Since the Joint Prosecuting Protocol( July 2015) prosecutors and rail companies view persistent fare evasion as fraud and prosecute accordingly .

In February 2017 , the Government following a Consultation announced a 'wholesale shift to access justice digitally , this will allow those facing a ,currently ,limited number of supposedly low level criminal offences to be dealt with on line .One of these offences is fare evasion.

An individual facing an allegation of fare evasion only has to click onto the website , enter a guilty plea and receive a pre determined fine and compensation order AND a criminal conviction .
The Government stresses that this system is entirely voluntary and is NOT suitable for those who wish the prosecuting authorities to take MITIGATING circumstances into account

Let's look at this carefully ... a conviction for fare evasion ( even one prosecuted under the Railways Act bylaws) is considered by most employers and professional regulatory bodies as convictions of dishonesty which can lead to immediate dismissal and or/ professional sanction .
It's accurate to say that in time these offences become 'spent ' and it can be unlawful for employers to ask if a potential candidate has a criminal conviction , but unfortunately that doesn't stop them .
Many employers insert clauses in employment contracts that stipulate that an employee must notify them of any pending and actual criminal prosecution . Failure to do so can lead to immediate dismissal .
Certain jobs demand enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks , and an employer will take such a conviction into consideration when making the decision to recruit .

Further in our experience ,every individual facing a such an allegation has mitigating circumstances that can be used to dissuade the rail authority from prosecuting , it's a question of identifying the mitigation and putting it to the authority in an attractive way .
Most of the rail authorities take a 'firm but fair ' approach , and the majority take a very firm approach to persistent fare evasion and /or the abuse of privilege or free travel passes .

We successfully defended the leading case in this field , which involved a Senior Financier who was , rather inaccurately , accused of fare evasion spanning many years . It attracted Nationwide publicity ,led by The Daily Mail and The Times and prompted the drafting of the Joint Prosecuting Protocol in July 2015.
We managed to dissuade the Police from prosecuting our client ,after raising legal argument .

Since 2014 we have successfully defended hundreds of clients , most of whom have come from business or professional backgrounds , who simply cannot afford to have a criminal conviction or the risk to their employment or profession .We have defended doctors , nurses , lawyers , University professors , social workers ,bankers , accountants , financiers ,journalists , university students , charity trustees ,teachers to name but a few .

Anybody who has FCA authorisation would have good reason to worry ,because this organisation takes a particularly draconian approach to these offences .
We have years of experience when it comes to defending FCA Regulatory and disciplinary proceedings .

It can affect immigration status ,your ability to raise loans or credit or even to get insurance .

What should you do if stopped by a Ticket Inspector?

First of all stay calm ... don't make up a silly or false explanation .... answer their questions honestly and in full .
Remember they are not trained police officers and they can often make important mistakes when noting responses and gathering evidence , which you should scrutinise carefully for accuracy .
Most rail authorities ( but by no means all ) will write to you within a few weeks , and send a letter entitled Notice of Intended Prosecution ,... please do NOT ignore this letter . It's vital that you respond promptly and it's a good time to consult a genuinely experienced solicitor.
This is your opportunity to try and deflect the prosecution and to persuade the prosecution to agree to an out of court settlement .
If you ignore the original letter then the next correspondence that you will receive will be a Court Summons .

How can we help you?

As highly experienced and successful criminal ,fraud and regulatory specialist defence lawyers , we adopt a legalistic approach to these cases .
We have established working relationships with most of the Country's rail authorities and understand immediately what mitigation will appeal to the prosecutors .
Our approach genuinely works in the overwhelming majority of cases , one of our colleagues has only lost one case in three years and was the lawyer who defended the leading case in this field , as mentioned earlier .

How much will it cost?

We do charge , and give an accurate estimate of the range of legal costs involved from the outset .
We do not offer a fixed fee basis of costs , this is because most cases take a great deal of time and care . We want to do the very best that we can for you , because we fully understand what is at risk for you .
We are a legal business ,and as solicitors sell our time and expertise .
Some cases involve quite complex mitigation and that can take time .

Currently most rail companies when assessing the cost of an out of court settlement will calculate as follows:
The cost of the missing rail fares and a contribution towards their investigative and legal costs .It is still a relatively small price to pay when your professional future is at stake .

If you feel that we can help you please contact us on 02073872032 or use our online enquiry service.

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