Presenting his defence case at Bristol Crown Court, Richard Hillgrove claimed that HMRC’s investigator colluded with his former accountants Bishop Jones to concoct a high-profile criminal case against him.
“I believe I was set up,” the celebrity PR agent said from the witness stand as he presented his version of events.
The incorporation of Hillgrove Public Relations Limited
A key turning point in the case occurred when Bishop Jones created a new limited liability company, Hillgrove Public Relations, that Hillgrove said he did not authorise. At the time he was told that all the assets and liabilities - including the tax debts - of RJH Management LLP would be transferred to the limited company. But this turned out not to be the case.
“Ms Dale said she would look to incorporate and transfer all assets and liabilities from the LLP to this limited company,” Hillgrove said. “The reason Bishop Jones told me this might happen was because this would reduce the tax liability. That was their recommendation.”
Yet the suspicious activity report (SAR) submitted by Michelle Bishop to SOCA in January 2011 suggested that “in view of the excessive tax liability of RJH Management LLP”, Hillgrove used the transfer “to disguise the true level of the tax liability”.
Hillgrove said the SAR was at odds with Bishop’s previous advice to him on the transfer of assets. “I would strongly suggest this came from Mr Harding and not Ms Bishop,” he said.
The finances and bank accounts of the two companies became very confused by the incorporation that he said was the result of “nothing untoward by me”....
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