A client too far : Secret deals over tax fraud case led to death of Paul McBride. SECRET NEGOTIATIONS between the highest ranking staff at Scotland’s Crown Office including the Lord Advocate, various Police forces, & Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in attempts to bring back to Scotland Imran “Immy” Hussain, 34 originally from Glasgow, who has been on the run from UK tax authorities for SIX YEARS after being accused of a THREE HUNDRED MILLION POUND TAX FRAUD, led to the untimely, and now increasingly questionable circumstances surrounding the death in a Pakistan hotel room of one of Scotland’s most celebrated lawyers, the late Paul McBride QC, who travelled to Pakistan with solicitor Aamer Anwar to meet Mr Hussain.
The Sunday Mail newspaper reported earlier this week “McBride told a friend that he was going to Lahore to meet a wealthy client wanted for a major fraud in the UK. Legal sources and friends of the lawyer, who was found dead in his room at the Pearl Continental Hotel, believe he met Hussain. McBride travelled to Pakistan with solicitor Aamer Anwar, 44, who said the lawyers attended a wedding during their stay.”
The late Mr McBride was to have represented Imran Hussain in any prosecution to take place in Scotland, however it has transpired the negotiations between McBride, who apparently “had authority from the Crown Office to deal on the case” did not play well into Mr Hussain’s wishes, who instead prefers to pay large fines rather than be sentenced to a lengthy stay in jail.
A legal insider who claims to know of the discussions said he believed parties within the negotiations had “got lippy over what was on offer and things did not go well from then on in”. Mr McBride was later found dead in his hotel room, the cause of which has not been accepted (at least in private) by some of his colleagues and legal observers.
A source has since come forward claiming he has copies of emails identifying a political dimension to the story, alleging an msp from [a party] was involved in some aspects of the negotiations. The source also suggested donations may have been made to the msp’s party, “depending on a result in the case had things gone better”. It has also been alleged the Scottish Government’s Justice Department “at it’s highest level” knew of the discussions between the late Mr McBride and the accused tax fraudster.
However, the Crown Office record on complicated fraud charges is poor, so poor one senior advocate has told Scottish Law Reporter he is “prepared to place a bet the Crown Office would rather make an offer in return for a guilty plea”. The advocate went onto claim he had heard papers relating to the Crown Office discussions with McBride had been destroyed after Mr McBride’s death, for fear of the material leaking to the media.
Was this case and the secret negotiations worth the life of Paul McBride QC ? Scottish Law Reporter thinks not.
The Sunday Mail reports :
Apr 8 2012 Exclusive by Derek Alexander
SCOTLAND'S wealthiest fraud suspect is trying to strike a deal to return from Pakistan but keep his cash, we can reveal. Imran “Immy” Hussain, 34, has been on the run from HMRC investigators for six years over a VAT scam in which he allegedly stole £300million from UK taxpayers. It is understood that top QC Paul McBride, 47, met fugitive Hussain during the trip to Pakistan where he died last month.
Former sunbed shop boss Hussain has been in Pakistan since being forced out of the millionaires’ playground of Dubai. But associates have revealed that playboy Hussain is desperate to return to his home city of Glasgow to see his friends and family.
One source said: “He has everything he could wish for in Pakistan but it’s not home. “He has effectively been on the run since the end of 2006 and it’s time to come back but he will only do so if he can get the right deal. “He wants to come home – but not to spend 20 years in a cell. “His preferred outcome would be to hand over a large amount of his money and do a light sentence – that way, the authorities could say justice has been done and point to the cash seizure as a success.”
McBride told a friend that he was going to Lahore to meet a wealthy client wanted for a major fraud in the UK. Legal sources and friends of the lawyer, who was found dead in his room at the Pearl Continental Hotel, believe he met Hussain. McBride travelled to Pakistan with solicitor Aamer Anwar, 44, who said the lawyers attended a wedding during their stay.
Hussain had been living the high-life in Dubai, where he owned two luxury houses, a fleet of cars and a yacht. He also travelled to Europe by private jet. He spent fortunes on wild parties and thought nothing of buying Rolex watches for his pals. But he was forced to leave the desert kingdom when HMRC investigators were sent to track him down.
Hussain, from Newton Mearns, Glasgow, had already been in contact with HMRC about a possible deal. Sources have described communication between Hussain and HMRC as “very sensitive”. One legal source said: “Paul was in Pakistan in his professional capacity as an advocate. “He was there to meet a Scottish Asian who is wanted for VAT fraud and wants to come back to Scotland. “His contacts at the Crown Office were at the highest level and he operated and negotiated at such a level.”
Another associate of Hussain said: “Things got a lot more difficult for him when he had to leave Dubai. He realised that HMRC weren’t going to give up on him and he has now been in Pakistan for the last couple of years.”
Hussain is suspected of heading a Europe-wide operation who set up hundreds of bogus firms linked to VAT fraud, also known as carousel fraud. Gangs claim back VAT on goods they say were imported and then exported. But the goods – usually small but high-value items such as computer chips and mobile phones – never existed.
Huge bill for the carousel fraud gangs
Britain’s carousel fraudsters cost taxpayers £3.5billion a year at the height of their operations. That was how much the gangs – most of them based in Glasgow – stole in the import-export scam. The crooks claimed to bring in high-value small goods such as mobile phones or computer chips VAT-free from the EU. A VAT-registered firm would then “sell” the items in the UK to a criminal associate and add 20 per cent VAT. The items are then re-exported and re-imported, with the conmen able to continually claim multiple VAT rebates on goods that don’t exist.
Britain suffered its worst year at the hands of the fraudsters in 2006, losing £3.5billion. David Odd, of HMRC, last year said the figure had been reduced to between £500million and £1billion annually. This was largely due to an extended verification programme which postponed VAT repayment claims. Several hundred officers were also deployed to investigate traders who dealt in mobiles and computer chips and had a huge turnover in a short time.