Customs pays out

Customs & Excise has paid six-figure damages to London accountantgal raid on offices. Sorskys, in an out-of-court settlement arising from an illegal raid on the firm’s offices.

The payment is understood to represent the largest damages payment ever made by the department.

Sorskys, a six-partner firm based in North London, agreed to the settlement last month, after a five-year court battle following a raid by Customs officers on its premises in 1994.

Harold Sorsky, a partner in the firm, refused to disclose the total amount of the settlement, but described it as ‘substantial’.

Customs has also been ordered to pay the firm’s costs, which are understood to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The settlement marks the end of a long dispute which began with the raid in November 1994.

Partners at the firm disputed the legality of the search warrant and took Customs to court and, in July 1995, had it declared unlawful and set aside. They then proceeded with a claim for damages.

The settlement was reached shortly before a court hearing to assess the damages was due to take place last month.

Sorsky said: ‘It was remarkable that Customs did not simply ask us for what they wanted. The court found that the warrant should never have been issued and that Customs should never have come into our offices the way they did. The damages reflect serious distress and disruption caused to our lives by this intrusion.’

Sorsky added that Customs was searching for information relating to an offshore company formed by the firm for a US accountant. The company, he said, had never been used or traded.

‘The judge could have asked for a production order rather than a search warrant,’ he added.

Customs were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

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