POCA Success: No Criminal Lifestyle and available amount reduced by £485k
In 2018, our client was convicted of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty on tobacco products between 1st January 2014 and 4th September 2015 as part of HMRC’s ‘Operation Mandolin’ investigation.
The specific duty evaded related to 17 million items seized in September 2014 at Felixstowe and exceeded £4.6m, however, based on covert recordings the Crown’s case was that the conspiracy was not limited to a single seizure.
During the confiscation proceedings, the Crown asserted that our client had a ‘criminal lifestyle’ because his ‘benefit’ exceeded £5k and the offending took place for longer than six months. We successfully argued that the evidence in fact showed our client participated in the conspiracy for just under six months, notwithstanding the indicted period, and so the statutory assumptions did not apply.
We did not seek to challenge the particular benefit figure and instead focussed on the ‘available amount’, said by the Crown to be £660k based on our client’s equity in five properties and significant company shareholding in addition to other assets. In our responses to the prosecution’s statements, we were able to demonstrate that some of the Crown’s assertions were wrong in law and other were manifestly wrong on the facts.
Following two days of intense negotiations, the Crown agreed to an available amount of just under £175k. The Court endorsed this figure and imposed a default sentence of 21 months’ imprisonment.
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