Flagship 7-year HMRC investigation collapses

The prosecution of four defendants for money laundering and evasion of duty offences collapsed due to the prosecution’s failure to comply with its disclosure obligations. All four defendants were acquitted.

The HMRC case involved allegations relating to the smuggling of millions of cigarettes and evasion of duty on substantial amounts of alcohol.

As a result of a number of disclosure requests by the defence prior to and during the trial, it became clear that, notwithstanding that the investigation and arrests dating back 7 years, there were major failings in the disclosure process by HMRC.

During a trial in March of this year the Crown successfully applied to discharge the jury in order to deal with disclosure issues raised by the defence in respect of potentially unlawful cross border surveillance. There had been four other jury panels selected prior to the commencement of this trial.

After the matter was set down for legal argument this summer, further disclosure was sought. The Crown declared on the first day of the hearing that they still had not met their disclosure obligations and sought a further adjournment. The application was resisted by the defence and the trial judge refused to adjourn the case. The Crown decided against pursuing an appeal against a terminatory ruling, and instead offered no evidence against all four defendants. Not guilty verdicts were recorded.

Dan Thomas, originally led by Ged Doran of Lincoln House, and latterly by Stephen Kamlish QC of Garden Court Chambers, acted for a lead defendant.

Dan Thomas was instructed for the defence by Leigh Wright of Tuckers Solicitors.