Anger as Stonegate hedge fund fare dodger 'buys silence'

 

Rail operator Southeastern has defended the out-of-court settlement

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A rail union has claimed a hedge fund manager was able to "buy silence" after he repaid £42,550 in unpaid fares to Southeastern - but remained anonymous and avoided court action.

The TSSA claimed it demonstrated one law for the rich and one for the poor.

Rail operator Southeastern has defended the out-of-court settlement as the quickest way to recover the fares.

The company said it dealt with fewer than 5,000 fare evasion cases a year and most were pursued in the courts.

The decision not to prosecute the hedge fund manager has caused consternation on social media, where it has been argued that he avoided prosecution only because he could afford to repay the money he had defrauded.

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA, said: "There seems to be one law for the rich and one law for the poor when it comes to criminal prosecution.

How far could you go on £42,000?

Eiffel tower
  • Twenty-one trips from London to Venice on the Orient Express, at £1,990 per person including meals
  • Fifty-two return flights from London Heathrow to Auckland, New Zealand
  • Eighty first-class train journeys from Penzance to Inverness
  • Six-hundred-and-eight return trips to Paris on Eurostar

"The rich seem to be able to walk away and claim secrecy while the poor get hauled up in front of the local magistrates court and publicly ridiculed.

"This guy can buy silence, but that isn't offered to most people who are caught fare dodging."

On Twitter, blogger Martin Shovel wrote: "Biggest rail fare dodger in history avoids prosecution because he's rich enough to pay back what he owed #OneLaw"

And Hugh Knowles tweeted: "Biggest rail fare dodger in UK? A loaded hedge fund manager. Says it all really."

But Southeastern said out-of-court settlements were a familiar part of the UK legal system.

In a statement, the rail company said: "In this case, this option has allowed us to recover the sum owed to us very quickly without incurring the additional costs or uncertainty associated with pursuing the matter through the courts."

A spokesman for British Transport Police said the fare dodging "was a matter for Southeastern".

He said: "They have the power to prosecute themselves. We wouldn't be following it up at this stage."

The Department for Transport has so far declined to comment on the case.

'Apply law fairly'

Passenger Focus, which campaigns for rail passengers, said the case highlighted the importance of train companies focusing enforcement on intentional fare dodgers instead of genuine passengers who made honest mistakes.

Acting chief executive David Sidebottom said: "To have confidence in the fares system, taxpayers and passengers will want to know that train companies are doing all they can to collect fares due and apply the law in a fair, consistent, proportionate and transparent way."

And the acting general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), Mick Cash, said: "This outrageous abuse of the fares system shows not only that some wealthy people think that they are above the normal rules, but it also demonstrates again why cuts to the train crew who police the system are a reckless and stupid false economy."

On Sunday, it emerged the unnamed city executive was believed to have dodged his fares by exploiting a loophole which meant he paid only a third of the journey cost.

The man, from Stonegate, had an Oyster Travelcard and regularly travelled to and from London.

Southeastern said he commuted from Stonegate to London Bridge, where he caught another train to Cannon Street.

His Oyster was used only at Cannon Street so he paid a maximum £7.20 fare.

It is thought he dodged fares for five years.

 

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  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 542.

    Of course he should have been prosecuted, however if he has paid the full amount owed surely it is more cost effective to take his money without the time taken, and the cost involved, to achieve this through the courts. Let us not forget that any money spent on court procedures, and not recovered, comes out of revenue. That means that we, as fare payers, subsidise that.

  • Comment number 338.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +168

    Comment number 281.

    The biggest robbers are the train companies.
    We are a family of 4 from "up north"
    If for any reason we wanted to go to that London on the train.It would be cheaper to fly to spain than get the train to London...
    Another tory privatisation disaster.

    .

  • rate this
    +67

    Comment number 272.

    why all the hoo-ha over rail fairs and someone getting caught and paying what is owed? Where was all this anger when large corporations were found to not be paying their tax? Where was the hostility toward government for the Royal Mail sell off and the huge profits made at tax payers expense? The real scams are those of government

  • rate this
    +78

    Comment number 247.

    My daughter uses Stonegate station every day, her season ticket is checked at least 3 times a week. On wonders how he managed to avoid being detected for so long

 

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