Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Struck-off solicitor sentenced for impersonating HMRC officer

Struck-off solicitor sentenced for impersonating HMRC officer


One time tax expert and pornographer pleads guilty to forgery at Guildford Crown Court

A former lawyer has been ordered to pay over £225,000 after pretending to work for HMRC in an attempt to obtain information on his own disciplinary investigation.

Paul Baxendale-Walker, 52, from Surrey, was struck off as a solicitor at a disciplinary tribunal hearing in 2007 after it was found he had a conflict of interest in advising clients on his own tax schemes.

Using a false name, Baxendale-Walker, who qualified as a barrister before becoming a solicitor, wrote to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) on what appeared to be HMRC-headed paper to try to get an admission of wrongdoing that would overturn the tribunal decision. He also made phone calls under false identities.

In August 2010, Baxendale-Walker submitted a claim for £230m in damages against the SRA and Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. It was alleged that the Oxford graduate had used secret recordings of conversations to support his claim for damages.

The High Court struck out all of the claims but, during the proceedings, Mr Justice Supperstone indicated that Baxendale-Walker might have committed offences by impersonating an HMRC officer.

Initially denying the charges against him, Baxendale-Walker eventually pleaded guilty to one count of forgery on Friday 15 April. Five other counts of fraud will remain on file. The former lawyer was fined £15,015 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £210,000 at Guildford Crown Court.

His Honour Judge Peter Moss said: 'Your intention in writing the letter was to lead the recipient to telling you things he would otherwise not have done.

'You determined by trick and underhand means to pursue an individual who was correctly employed by the SRA. Such people are entitled to be protected from the harassment you subjected them to.'

Baxendale-Walker is no stranger to controversy. The ex-solicitor is a well-known designer of tax avoidance schemes and has written extensively on the use of employee remuneration trusts to avoid tax. The Employee Benefit Trust scheme operated by companies of Sir David Murray, the former owner and chairman of Rangers Football Club, was one such example.

The trust, which was in operation in for a decade, was used by the Scottish club to give millions of pounds of tax-free loans to its players and other staff. The scheme was brought to the club by Baxendale-Walker's Mayfair-based firm.

After lengthy litigation, dubbed the 'big tax case', three judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled in favour of HMRC that the trust broke tax rules by the club.

Baxendale-Walker is also known for being something of a media mogul. In addition to owning Loaded, Mayfair, and Men Only magazines, he bought the adult film company Bluebird Productions in 2005, directing and starring in several pornographic movies.