Charges to be dropped against five more in tax fraud case

Charges against five more of the defendants who were accused of tax fraud at the same time as corporate financier Richard Hughes will be formally dismissed next month.

As first revealed by TheBusinessDesk, Hughes, the co-founder of Manchester-based corporate finance firm Zeus Capital, and Manchester tax accountant Stephen Bold, had all charges of tax fraud dismissed by a judge just over a month ago.

The charges were the result from a three-year investigation by HMRC and related to £134m investment schemes. The trial had been set to be heard at Birmingham Crown Court in January 2018.

Now the same judge – HHJ Simon Drew QC – has said that the charges against five more of the remaining eight defendants should also be dropped on the same basis, that they were deficient.

In a dismissal ruling the judge said that the charges will be formally dismissed on July 3, in accordance with the prosecution’s concessions.

The five who will have charges dropped include former Zeus Partners employees Jonathan Hirst and Dominic Ryder.

Patrick McCoy, the former head of investment advisory for professional services firm KPMG in the UK, and Christopher Ward, who at the time was managing director of IFA firm Ward Consultancy, and Richard Roydon will also have all charges dropped.

That means that just three of the original 10 defendants are still facing charges: Matthew Cahill and Timothy Richardson, who each face three charges, and Katrin Hoffman, the chief operating officer of US film production company Seven Arts, who faces a single charge. All defendants have been on unconditional bail and deny wrongdoing.

A CPS spokesperson said: “We are aware of the judgement and are currently considering our options. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

HMRC said in a statement: “HMRC is currently awaiting advice on this ruling and will not comment further at this stage.”

The charges followed a three-year probe by HMRC into a film investment scheme. The long-running investigation focused on Zeus Partners, a separate business that sold film investment schemes generating tax relief to high net worth investors.

The argument was whether a £134m investment scheme sold by Zeus Partners in 2008 was against the law.

Hughes, who resigned as a director of Zeus in 2015 but remains an adviser and shareholder to the Manchester and London-based business, has vigorously denied any wrongdoing from the outset.

At the time charges were brought he described the move by the Crown Prosecution Service to advance the case against him, as “beyond comprehension”, and vowed to clear his name.

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