HMRC lawyer faces sanctions after whistleblowing

An in-house solicitor at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is facing possible dismissal and prosecution after disclosing that a senior manager had allegedly let off Goldman Sachs from £10m pounds in tax penalties.

Osita Mba, who trained in Nigeria as a barrister, leaked documents to the National Audit Office and two parliamentary committees which allegedly prove that Dave Hartnett, the permanent secretary for tax at HMRC, sanctioned the purported waiving of back payments.

Harnett denies personal involvement in the settlefment, but admitted his organisation had made a mistake by approving the deal.

According to The Guardian, he told the Treasury Select Committee that although he had attended a dinner paid for by Goldman Sachs, he “knew nothing of Goldman’s tax affairs when (he) was at that supper” and he did “not deal with Goldman’s tax affairs”.

HMRC confirmed that is in the process of launching an inquiry into Mba’s whistleblowing, with the lawyer purportedly being denied access to the building without a personal escort from his line manager.

An HMRC spokesman said “It is essential that we establish the full facts in order to decide what action to take. To this end we are carrying out a preliminary leak inquiry following the disclosure, including on the Guardian website, of internal departmental documents which may constitute a serious breach of confidential information.

“This is the first time we have had an opportunity to see the documents and we will give careful consideration to this material.”

A spokesman for the National Audit Office told The Lawyer that external counsel was being brought in to investigate the claim further as well as examining whether HMRC officials routinely sign off deals with large companies.