Unlike the prison-like confines of Southwark – Ernst & Young’s new offices – Snaresbrook could be mistaken for a posh country hotel. A long driveway leads to an imposing building, a former orphanage, with geese and swans roaming the manicured lawns.
Inside, Snaresbrook is more what one might expect of a court, with an airport-style tannoy system blaring through the corridors. It is not the kind of place to put you at ease, as Andrew Regan knows only too well.
I spent several hours chatting to Regan while the jury deliberated in his recent theft trial. The setting was surreal.
Regan, with his trendy footballer locks, was accompanied by his father, Roger, remembered for running Spring Ram, the kitchens and bathrooms company.
Spring Ram was so named, according to Roger, ‘because all our competitors were sheep’. Obvious, really.
Talking to the two men gave me an insight into the world of the tax exile.
Regan senior, now retired, spends the winter in Boca Raton on Florida’s Atlantic coast. He can only spend 94 days a year in the US. He spends another chunk of his time – up to 90 nights a year – at his flat in Chelsea Harbour or seeing his 15 grandchildren. The ’90 nights’ UK limit is not as restrictive as it sounds: fly in on a Monday morning and leave on Tuesday evening, and that only counts as one night.
Roger spends the rest of the year travelling, although it sounds a bit rootless to me. He told me that Cyprus has become the hot new locale for Brits seeking a tax-friendly regime. Could be just the place – if you like hanging out with Russian mobsters.
- Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times
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