Barrister Edward Agbaje jailed over £80k VAT fraud

A barrister who charged clients VAT but failed to pay HMRC has been jailed for tax fraud.

Edward Paul Agbaje, 60, of London, has been jailed for 18 months after failing to pay more than £80,000 in tax to HMRC over a seven-year period. Agbaje, a criminal lawyer, who practices in Gray's Inn, London, claimed in court to have gambled away the proceeds of his crime.

He had been deregistered for VAT by HMRC in February 2005 after failing to submit complete VAT returns dating back to 1994. This meant he was barred from trading above the VAT threshold, which was £58,000 in 2005.

But Agbaje continued to trade, paying no VAT from 2 February 2005 to 17 March 2012. He used his invalid VAT number on invoices during this period and collected more than £59,000 in VAT on fees from clients, pocketing the money rather than passing it on to HMRC. Agbaje had also failed to file tax returns since 2007, resulting in a tax bill of £18,051.01.

Andrew Sackey, assistant director, criminal investigation at HMRC, said: 'As a barrister Agbaje should have known better than to try to cheat the system. He thought he was above the law but HMRC will not stand by while criminals try to cheat the taxpayer.

'Declaring and paying VAT due is a legal requirement - not a lifestyle choice - so we are pleased that justice has been served.'

HMRC discovered that Agbaje was continuing to trade during a routine VAT visit to his chambers, when it was found that he was using his old, de-registered VAT number on invoices.

Agbaje has been made bankrupt twice, in 1999 and 2008, relating to non-payment of income tax to HMRC.

HMRC currently has a legal profession taskforce operating in London.

Agbaje is the second barrister to be jailed for tax fraud in the past three weeks. In February, Rohan Pershad, 44, of London, was convicted for three and half years after HMRC investigators found he had failed to declare or pay £627,839 of VAT for 12 years.

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