Rohan Pershad QC sentenced to three and half years for VAT fraud

Former 39 Essex Street silk Rohan Pershad QC has been jailed for three and a half years after being found guilty of VAT fraud.

Rohan Pershad QC
Rohan Pershad QC

Pershad was found guilty of cheating the public purse earlier this month after “deliberately” not paying a total of £600,000 VAT over a period of 12 years. The jury took almost 10 hours to convict him on a majority of 11-1 (11 February 2013).

Today Pershad said he would be appealing his sentence. In a statement released through his solicitor, Kingsley Napley partner Angus McBride, Pershad said: “I will be appealing my conviction, which I believe is wrong and unsafe. I have not acted dishonestly in relation to the payment of VAT and I will be seeking to have my conviction overturned in the Court of Appeal.

“There have been a number of inaccurate and misleading comments made publicly since my conviction. I will seek to correct them at the appropriate time.”

During his trial the barrister, who took silk in 2011 (14 March 2011) had denied the charges against him, claiming that he believed chambers had paid his VAT bill on his behalf (28 January 2013).

Prosecuting counsel for HMRC, Andrew Marshall QC of 18 Red Lion Court, said it was “nonsense” for Pershad to blame his set when it was common knowledge that barristers were responsible for their own tax bills.

While Pershad was a member at 2 Crown Office Row between 1993 and 1999, the set charged 18 per cent of barrister’s income to cover running costs, the court heard. When he moved to 39 Essex Street, the rate fluctuated from between 22 per cent and 26 per cent.

“The reason why chambers charged more is he was moving to a smarter set, better accommodation, more staff, better services, international reach and attracting the best work. All of this costs money,” Marshall said.

“He was paying a higher contribution no doubt thinking he would get better work. They do not charge 22 per cent of a barrister’s net fees and then pay 17.5 per cent to HMRC. That would leave them with a single figure and make them the cheapest place around. We would all be trying to get in there.”

It was when he moved to 39 Essex Street in 1999 that he “disappeared off the VAT radar”, Marshall said. HMRC had considered Pershad to be “a missing trader”, noting that he made no further VAT payments before being questioned about it in 2011. This provided him with a “private tax-free income of £600,000”, Marshall told the court.

The seven-day trial heard witness statements from the former head of 2 Crown Office Row, Christopher Purchas QC, 39 Essex Street chief executive David Barnes and 20 Essex Street senior clerk Brian Lee.

Pershad was first arrested in July 2012 (26 July 2012). He subsequently withdrew his membership from 39 Essex Street (31 July 2012).