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The former owner of a London brewery today accused HM Revenue and Customs and prosecutors of trying to “crush” him after being cleared by a jury on tax evasion charges.
Jules Whiteway-Wilkinson, who set up London Fields Brewery in Hackney, was accused of cheating the public revenue of nearly £730,000 of VAT, national insurance and student loan contributions.
He was found not guilty after a trial at Wood Green crown court after the jury heard he had always intended to pay. But jurors were told he had been unable to after prosecutors forced his brewery into financial trouble by pursuing him over a £2 million confiscation order.
The order was imposed for a previous drug trafficking conviction and based largely on supposedly hidden assets which did not exist. The court also heard he suffered conflicting action by tax officials, with some refusing to license his brewery — meaning he could not pay beer duty — while others took action against his business for non-payment.
Today, Whiteway-Wilkinson said his life and that of wife Rosie Spence, who earlier had the same tax charges against her dismissed, had been “devastated”, adding: “HMRC and the Crown Prosecution Service have tried to crush me for reasons I do not understand. I have been treated differently to other traders who have experienced similar issues.Rosie and I have been victimised.”
Whiteway-Wilkinson, 45, of Stoke Newington, was arrested in 2014 after a raid by tax investigators on his brewery, which was forced into administration. At the trial his barrister Andrew Campbell-Tiech QC said his client was the victim of an “abuse of power”.
Mr Campbell-Tiech said Whiteway-Wilkinson, a former boarding school pupil from a privileged background, came to London in the Nineties and ran warehouse parties attended by celebrities. He sold drugs at the parties but saw his “world collapse” in 2004 after he was jailed for 12 years for class-A drug trafficking.
He was also given a £2 million confiscation order. He set up the brewery to pay off his debts, the court heard, transforming from “wastrel and drug dealer to entrepreneur and success”, but fell victim to a “ludicrous bureaucratic bungle” caused by the taxman which stopped him from paying beer duty.
Earlier this year prosecutors accepted Whiteway-Wilkinson did not have the assets to pay the confiscation order. London Fields Brewery, whose ownership passed to Whiteway-Wilkinson’s father, was sold this month to Carlsberg in an estimated £4 million deal.
HMRC said: “We have a duty to take action against those we suspect of committing tax evasion. We will not hesitate to engage prosecuting authorities to bring suspected wrongdoing before the courts.” The CPS said the case was “charged in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors”.
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