Success Stories

Operation Bulkhead – client acquitted of film industry tax scam

By David Sonn  |  09.06.2016

Sonn Macmillan Walker successfully represented one of five defendants charged with the largest ever alleged conspiracy to cheat the public revenue. Our client, a respected film industry figure, was the only defendant to be acquitted by the jury after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court that lasted 8 months.

Dubbed “Operation Bulkhead”, the criminal investigation launched by HMRC into a marketed film investment tax avoidance scheme that operated between 2002 and 2005, took years to investigate.  There were more than 50,000 pages of served evidence.

The total claim for tax relief submitted on behalf of the investors in the scheme (many of whom were well known celebrities) amounted to a sum in excess of a quarter of a billion pounds. HMRC launched the investigation after refusing to accept that the claim for losses sustained in the first year of trading for each scheme were “allowable” for the purposes of the relief claimed. The prosecution alleged that the defendants had conspired to cheat the public revenue by falsely inflating the value of the losses claimed in order to facilitate tax evasion.

During the trial, our client was represented by Howard Godfrey QC of 2 Bedford Row leading Paul Lazarus (formerly of this firm and now a barrister at 25 Bedford Row).  David Sonn led the team preparing the case.

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