The Inland Revenue like their successor, HM Revenue & Customs, had no authority to undertake criminal prosecutions in Scotland. They required to persuade the Lord Advocate as head of the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service to instigate such where they had reason to believe criminality existed. The former tax authorities' special investigations unit (SCO) were thus required to pass on their files to the appropriate prosecuting authorities. As we have seen in this case, what is competent and what passes for competence were two very different things!
From our own investigations we know that SCO officers approached the Procurator Fiscal in Cupar, Fife, Scotland, during 2002 in relation to a possible offence but no action was sanctioned in relation to any prosecution. We also know that Crown Counsel in the Scottish Capital thereafter instructed that the papers be transferred to the Procurator Fiscal Service in Edinburgh where Procurator Fiscal Depute, Mrs Joan Guy, was persuaded to take up the case on behalf of the Inland Revenue.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 clearly show that there was some dissent at these events and that the Procurator Fiscal was clearly uncomfortable at pursuing the case given what had previously occurred. This became all the more apparent when Mrs Guy was later witnessed to make an off-the-cuff comment at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to the effect that she was only doing the case as a favour for the Inland Revenue! So much for exercising independent discretion!
SCO team leader, Stephen James Henderson, was responsible for briefing Mrs Guy in relation to the facts, thereafter quoting so-called intelligence including providing her with false and malicious information to the effect that John had fled the country and could not be contacted. It seems that everyone else around the world could contact John but those elite at the Inland Revenue couldn't. This beggars belief having regard to the vast array of resources at the Revenue's disposal or was it simply a case of John 'being from Northern Ireland and didn't live in Scotland' so must be an absconder from justice!
It is factually documented that Henderson was given John's contact details and by reputable sources but failed to follow through for whatever reason. It is also known that he contacted the Inland Revenue's counterpart organisation in Alicante, Spain and was given John's legally registered home and business addresses in the country. Yet again, why was no effort made to contact John by those elite specially trained officers within the SCO that we hear so much about? We can only but speculate as to what the answers to these questions are!
Tip! If you intend moving abroad, send the taxman a postcard first!
In November 2002 and in the absence of any independent investigation or substantiation of any sort, the Crown Office instructed Lothian & Borders Police to issue an arrest warrant for John's arrest as he was deemed, according to Henderson's reporting, to be a fugitive from justice. This warrant was thereafter considered so incompetent that a replacement was produced in February 2003 and also dated November 2002. Search warrants were thereafter routinely raised by the Procurator Fiscal Depute in Edinburgh which allowed Henderson and the SCO the freedom to further their enquiries in Scotland, England, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Enquiries to the British Virgin Islands were repelled in the usual way. Many financial documents were retrieved and all related to simply legitimate and entirely transparent financial dealings and money transfers. Should this not have been the case, SCO would have been unable to follow such a paper trail as easily as they did. This fact was however lost on those elite investigators who by this time had only one agenda by virtue of tunnel vision. Maybe this did not occur to them? It seems that if you work and have other interests abroad including having bank accounts on offshore islands (apparently a no no), you are deemed to be involved in criminality as far as the Inland Revenue were concerned. Maybe they knew something that the rest of us didn't or at least, they thought they did!
Crown Counsel wrote to Lothian & Borders Police in March 2003 advising wrongly and most incompetently, that John had absconded to Spain and that enquiries should be directed there. Purely on this basis, Lothian & Borders Police subsequently issued a Diffusion Notice to Interpol requesting John's provisional arrest on the basis of this false and misleading information. John was arrested in his office in Spain on 5th August 2003 , a couple of days after returning from his home in Northern Ireland. Apparently it wasn't good enough to contact John in the United Kingdom as any competent investigator would have arranged to do. In any event, doing so gave the case a whole new significance if the individual sought could be arrested abroad on the illusion that he had fled the country in the first place. The huge costs alone involved in the perpetration of this farce can only be guessed at but, after all, it's only public money with public officials in Scotland and especially Revenue officials being apparently unaccountable to no one for their actions! But yet another reason why the public interest must be satisfied in this case!
Complaints in relation to the competence of these officials including requests for Henderson's suspension have so far fallen on deaf ears. No proper enquiry has ever been carried out although Alan Carmichael, Group Leader, HMRC Criminal Investigation Edinburgh reported to the Scottish Executive that they did conduct a thorough internal investigation with the complaint not being upheld, surprise surprise! Is it not normal practice to report back to the individual who made the complaint in the first place, but hey, who's normal? In a failed attempt to deny John parole he also complained that John has focussed on the incompetent investigator and threatened civil litigation both in the UK and in Spain which he also construes as personalising the issue beyond what is reasonable on the basis that they consider such action to be incompetent. So it is reasonable to have someone arrest abroad and imprisoned for 6 months on the basis of a pack of lies because that is what it amounted to?
The Chief Constable of Lothian & Borders Police has also confirmed on several occasions that he is prevented from carrying out any independent investigation into the affair by the Office of the Procurator Fiscal in Edinburgh, no doubt it would not be in the public interest or in any event, their interest to do so! Apparently, the requirements of the Inland Revenue take precedence over that of any Police force and as for justice - well, work that one out for yourself!