Former 1 Gray’s Inn Square barrister struck off

A former 1 Gray’s Inn Square barrister jailed last year for avoiding paying £77,000 in income tax and VAT has been struck off by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

Former barrister Edward Agbaje admitted the charge of professional misconduct at the disciplinary tribunal in front of the five-strong panel chaired by former deputy circuit judge HH Mr Stuart Sleeman.

The tribunal found that he “had engaged in dishonest conduct after he cheated the public revenue out of £77,265 in income and VAT between September 2004 and 17 March 2012” (15 March 2013).

It follows his conviction last year at the Old Bailey on two counts of cheating the public purse. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison sentence. The court heard that he had been declared bankrupt in 1999 and 2008 despite collecting more than £59,000 in VAT on fees from clients. He claimed to have gambled the proceeds.

BSB head of professional conduct Sara Jagger said: “Respect for the law should be in every barrister’s DNA. Mr Agbaje has been convicted for a very serious crime. In doing so he has brought the profession into disrepute.

”No member of the public could be expected to ever have confidence in him as a barrister after this. The panel has made the right decision.”

Agbaje’s was the second high-profile tax fraud sentence for a barrister in less than a month. In February 2013 former 39 Essex Street silk Rohan Pershad QC was jailed for three and a half years for “deliberately” not paying a total of £600,000 in VAT over 12 years (26 February 2013).

Last month Pershad attempted to overthrow that decision in the Court of Appeal. The appeal was quashed but Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas criticized Judge Marron’s handling of the case. Lord Thomas LCJ said Judge Marron’s summing up was “open to material criticism” and was “woefully organised and inaccurate in some respects” (10 April 2014).