Disgraced barrister jailed over VAT tax dodge

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A "disgraced" barrister who specialised in fraud cases has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for failing to pay £600,000 in VAT.

Rohan Pershad QC, 44, of Hammersmith, west London, stopped paying tax in 1999, Blackfriars Crown Court heard.

Last week he was found guilty of cheating the public revenue to pocket the cash over a 12-year period.

Prosecutors said he had bought two properties in Somerset and Surrey for a total of £1.5m.

In sentencing, Judge Aidan Marron QC told Pershad: "You have brought disgrace on yourself and have aggravated that position by fighting this case and lying in front of a jury.

"It saddens me that I have to deal with you."

Describing Pershad as having been "a person of substance to date", the judge added: "It is sad that you, a successful and otherwise compassionate man, should have sunk to these particular levels."

Pershad, who specialised in financial disputes, professional negligence and insurance cases, had been guilty of a "persistent" fraud, the judge said.

Start Quote

He will never live down the very public humiliation caused by his actions to him but perhaps more pertinently caused to his family.”

End Quote Mukul Chawla QC Defendant's barrister

During his nine-day trial, jurors heard that most barristers were self-employed and were legally required to pay their own VAT.

Broken man

Father-of-four Pershad stopped doing so in 1999, shortly before he moved to the Thirty Nine Essex Street chambers.

He then fell off the tax register, meaning he "disappeared off the VAT radar" and was classed as a "missing trader" but he continued to work, the court heard.

The prosecution said he knew what his legal responsibilities were.

The judge said: "It is clear to me and was clear during the trial that you decided to capitalise on that situation and in the ensuing 12 years you cheated the revenue of £600,000.

"You willingly and knowingly engaged in persistent and consistent dishonesty."

Pershad is now a "broken man" who has brought shame on his family, according to Mukul Chawla QC defending.

Before this case he had been considered "a man of previous exemplary good character", he said.

'Not dishonest'

"He will never live down the very public humiliation caused by his actions to him but perhaps more pertinently caused to his family.

"Mr Pershad is a broken man. He is never going to be able to work again in the sphere he had previously worked. He is going to have to suffer the shame of going to prison and the consequences of that to his family."

Mr Chawla suggested that "in the latter period" of the fraud Pershad was "suffering from a depressive illness exacerbated by the breakdown of his marriage".

In a statement released through his lawyers, Pershad said: "I have not acted dishonestly in relation to the payment of VAT and I will be seeking to have my conviction overturned in the Court of Appeal.

"I am not a dishonest man. I have never sought to defraud or cheat anyone. I will continue to fight to clear my name."

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