Ex-ATT president on trial for £5m pension fraud

by Hannah Brenton

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10 Jan 2013

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FORMER ATT PRESIDENT Andrew Meeson and his business associates are accused of pocketing £5m in a "very simple and very lucrative scam" by claiming tax relief on fictitious pensions.

Meeson (pictured), the former president of the Association of Taxation Technicians, is accused, along with Peter Spencer Bradley, Alison Jayne Bradley and Steven Price, of conspiracy to cheat HM Revenue and Customs between 1 January 2006 and 30 April 2010. All four defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Steven Price, 47, denies a further count of acquiring criminal property from the proceeds of the fraud between 1 June 2007 and 30 April 2010, Accountancy Age's sister publication Professional Pensions reports.

David Farrer QC, prosecuting, told the jury at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday that Meeson, 52, and married couple Peter Bradley, 45, and Alison Bradley, 47, exploited HMRC's 'relief at source' (RAS) system to profit from "bogus" tax relief claims for two "imaginary" pension schemes for the Moya group of payroll companies.

Farrer said: "The first three defendants invented two relatively large pension schemes with completely fictitious members and over a substantial period ‘reclaimed' tax from the Revenue on non-existent contributions."

Pension scheme administrators make monthly RAS claims to HMRC for tax relief repayment on the behalf of members, but do not need to break down the claim by individual scheme or identify member contributions.

Meeson and the two Bradleys were directors of scheme administrator Tudor Capital Management – the prosecution said they hid tax relief claims for the "fictitious" Moya schemes among claims from other genuine schemes.

The court heard the three defendants had acted as accountants for Moya but were never appointed as pension scheme administrators – because no scheme existed. The Moya group itself was involved in two large tax frauds, which has since resulted in prison terms for its directors and forced the companies out of business.

The prosecution claims Meeson registered the first Moya scheme with HMRC in May 2006 and allegedly began making false RAS claims in April 2007, shortly before Moya was wound up.

A second "fictitious" Moya scheme was allegedly registered with HMRC in March 2008, with Price appointed as trustee.

Farrer said Price was used for his false name – he has admitted criminal possession of a false passport and driving license in the name of Shaun Stokes who died in 2003, but denies their knowing use in the tax fraud.The prosecution said Price was made trustee of the second Moya scheme to provide a "buffer" between the fraud and the three other defendants.

Farrer added: "Price was well paid, we say, for the use of his false name and documents and for acting as a sort of ‘stooge' trustee for one of the two schemes invented."

The prosecution said "there is not a trace" of the £20m contributions that were allegedly received from Moya employees.

The court heard the defendants "churned" money between TCM's bank account and an account they allegedly set up for the Moya scheme to create the illusion of contributions being made.

The £5m of reclaimed tax relief was used to pay for supposed loans to Meeson and the Bradleys, as gifts and loans to their family members and friends, to pay huge fees invoiced by TCM and in a single investment in Norton Motorcycles, the jury was told.

An annual external audit by Talbot and Co., required by HMRC, was "seriously flawed" and failed to investigate the missing contributions, the prosecution claimed.

Farrer said the first three defendants abandoned the fraud when HMRC began to scrutinise the Moya claims.

The trial continues...

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