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An study reveals that High Court judges invested in tax avoidance schemes

Judges in England and Wales have been shown to have stakes in notorious tax evasion schemes, raising worries about judicial conflicts of interest.

An study reveals that High Court judges invested in tax avoidance schemes

Three High Court judges in England and Wales have invested in and held a financial interest in tax evasion schemes that HM Revenue and Customs has challenged.

Mrs Justice Joanna Smith, one of the judges, ruled on two tax avoidance cases last year while holding investments in two schemes that HMRC had challenged. There is no evidence that this influenced her decisions.

Smith had a stake in the Curo Charlotte House LLP scheme. It was revealed in December 2014 that HMRC was planning to demand repayments from investors in that particular programme.

Smith made her initial investment before beginning her judicial career in 2012, and she was appointed to the High Court in 2021.

Smith and another judge upheld the First-tier Tribunal (Tax) (FTT) verdict in both cases, concluding that the primary goal of the schemes in question was not to avoid tax.

HMRC had challenged the initial FTT judgement against ITR's former parent business Euromoney Institutional Investor in one of the cases.

The research analysed Companies House documents and discovered that Mr Justices Simon Bryan and Martin Griffith still have assets in similar schemes.

Bryan and Griffiths have been investing in the Cobalt Data Centre 2 LLP plan since 2011, shortly after their legal careers began. They were both appointed to the High Court in 2017 and 2019.

Another pair of High Court judges invested in similar scams that have since failed.

The five judges' investments were made between 2003 and 2012.

The findings raise concerns about potential conflicts of interest at the highest levels of the English and Welsh legal systems, as well as the robustness of the rules in place to resist them.

Currently, judges are not compelled to formally disclose their financial interests during their careers. Instead, if a possibility of actual or perceived conflict of interest emerges in a certain case, they are required to report personal financial information.

According to the Guide to Judicial Conduct, judges can decide "whether or not a particular activity or course of conduct is appropriate" when it comes to conflict-of-interest decisions.

The Judiciary Office stated that no judges wished to speak.



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