In the annals of celebrity grudge matches (if either can be described as a
celebrity) it would be one to watch for tax advisers and accountants.
There was Alois complaining about Germany’s underhand acquisition of bank
details from the tiny Alpine principality, when Hartnett made it known that HMRC
had also bought details of UK tax payers using Lichtenstein as a place to cache
Alois must have felt like the world was ganging up against him. He cried
foul, he looked hurt on TV and whinged bitterly that the whole thing amounted to
an attack on a sovereign state and that it was clear that ‘might’ was suddenly
in the right.
By contrast, once Germany’s news broke, HMRC made sure everyone knew that
they had parted with £100,000 for information and hoped to rake in about a cool
£100m. There was more than a little pride in the briefings that followed.
Alois would be giving away a lot of weight to Hartnett, in argumentative
terms. Despite what must have been an impeccable education (including
Sandhurst), Alois was really lost for a killer turn of phrase to hammer home
just how much he was hurt.
He comes across as someone wanting to have it out according to Marquess of
Queensbury rules, while Hartnett must rank as much more of a grapple fan. Alois
would have viewed the buying of information from a snitch (clearly an unhappy
former employee of the principality) as something of a kidney punch – unfair,
unnecessary and unsportsmanlike.
Hartnett is currently putting in an eye-catching turn as acting chairman. You
have to wonder what else he has up his sleeve.
Gavin Hinks is the editor of Accountancy Age
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