UK: HMRC faces grilling over ‘reluctance’ to raid Lycamobile
20 Apr 2018

HMRC bosses are set to appear before a parliamentary committee over allegations the organisation was reluctant to raid Lycamobile because it was a major donor to the Conservative party.

A spokesman for the Treasury Select Committee said it will speak to top officials from the UK’s tax office about the matter.

French prosecutors approached HMRC for assistance regarding their probe into money laundering and tax fraud issues concerning the telecoms firm, however, they were ‘stonewalled’ by HMRC, a BuzzFeed News investigation said.

An HMRC enforcement team official said in a letter to the French that Lycamobile is “a large multinational company” and would be “extremely unlikely to agree to having their premises searched”.

The letter, seen by BuzzFeed, also said : “It is of note that they are the biggest corporate donor to the Conservative party led by Prime Minister Theresa May and donated 1.25m Euros to the Prince Charles Trust in 2012.”

When asked to comment on the BuzzFeed report, an HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC always investigates suspected rule breaking professionally and objectively and is never influenced by political considerations.”

According to HMRC, the facts about political donations “were contained as background information only and did not have any influence on our decision making process.”

Lycamobile denies the BuzzFeed allegations.

Commenting, Robert Barrington, Executive Director of Transparency International UK, said: “HMRC must now make clear the exact reasons why they refused the request of their French colleagues, and should re-consider whether an investigation of their own is appropriate given that many of the alleged offences took place in the UK.”

“As the UK moves closer to Brexit it must demonstrate that it will uphold the rule of law, rather than offer impunity to the highest bidder. The government must also reflect on whether it is offering the right tone to HMRC and other institutions.”

Read more:

HSBC: $500 million returned to Angola after fraud alert, UK intervention

Money laundering: EU outlines new measures on bank registers, cross-border access

SFO charges Barclays Plc and four executives with fraud

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