39 Essex Street silk steps down from chambers as he fights VAT charges

A 39 Essex Street silk accused of VAT fraud has withdrawn his membership of the set in the face of criminal charges against him.

Rohan Pershad QC was charged with VAT fraud last week (26 July 2012). He will appear in Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on Thursday (2 August) to face charges that he “knowingly” did not pay a total of £600,000 in tax over the 12-year period to September 2011. The charge is an indictable offence that would have to go to the crown court for a full hearing.

A statement from 39 Essex Street said that Pershad had withdrawn his membership by “mutual agreement” until the criminal proceedings against him are resolved.

It added: “It is not for 39 Essex Street Chambers to comment on the criminal proceedings, which are entirely a matter between Mr Pershad and HMRC and will be for the trial process to determine.

“39 Essex Street Chambers is fully co-operating with HMRC as and when requested to do so.”

Pershad, who took silk in 2011 (14 March 2011), joined the set in 1999 having trained at 2 Crown Office Row (26 July 1999 ).

Following the announcement by the CPS that Pershad was to be charged, the barrister issued a statement via his instructed lawyer at Kingsley Napley, partner Angus McBride.

It read: “The CPS has issued this summons while I am still providing HMRC and the CPS with further information and representations setting out why I am not guilty of any offence.  

“I am extremely disappointed that the CPS has seen fit to issue a press release whilst discussions are ongoing.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I deny any dishonest activity in relation to my tax affairs and if a decision is made to pursue this matter in court, I will defend myself vigorously.”

Keri Ashworth-Beaumont, prosecutor for the CPS central fraud division, said the evidence suggested that Pershad “charged and received VAT payments on services he provided whilst practising as a barrister but which he knowingly failed to declare or pay to HMRC”.