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Perth & Kinross

Shamed former company director facing jail over £174,000 VAT fraud

May 17 2017

A shamed former company director is facing jail after admitting fraudulently avoiding VAT totalling more than £174,000. Stuart Newing-Davis falsified the accounts of his Perthshire recruitment and training firm Trainpeople.co.uk for months. He siphoned-off the money tens of thousands of pounds at a time, and used it to prop up his second business, Ptarmigan Transport Solutions. After years of holding up court proceedings and attempting to throw the blame onto bookkeepers and accountants he finally admitted his guilt at Perth Sheriff Court. He could now face a lengthy period behind bars, while The Crown may also seek to recoup some of the cash through proceeds of crime legislation. That may prove problematic as where he once ran a business empire and trained staff for the rail industry, his companies have long since been wound up due to their debts. The court was told he is now a near-penniless London bus driver who has a roof over his head thanks only to the generosity of the YMCA. The court heard that while Trainpeople.co.uk was struggling throughout his offences, his transport business was in far more severe financial difficulty and could not generate the required funds. The criminal steps Newing-Davis took to keep himself in business were eventually spotted by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), whose criminal investigations team launched a major probe into his finances. They discovered five months in particular in which he had severely under-declared his VAT by falsifying his returns. That allowed him to pass sums of £20,190.98, £31,500, £45,991.52, £38,496.83 and £38,000 between his businesses. When challenged over the fraud, he attempted to blame those who had assisted his business over the years, including bookkeepers and accountancy firms. Investigators discovered employees had correctly recorded amounts on the company’s SAGE accounting software but Newing-Davis made amendments before submitting the now-fraudulent VAT returns to HMRC. Speaking in his defence, Kevin McCallum QC said the offences were different from many cases of VAT fraud. “The money was not siphoned-off for personal gratification but to keep his companies going,” he said. “It was going from one company bank account and into the other – and sometimes back again." Newing-Davis, 48, pleaded guilty to five charges of fraudulently evading VAT totalling £174,179.33 while a director of Trainpeople.co.uk on dates between March 3, 2010 and June 7, 2011. Sentence was deferred until June 21. Mr McCallum accepted that custody was "the most likely disposal" but also said it "need not be inevitable".

Perth & Kinross

Capture of British jihadis could help bring body of murdered aid worker home to Scotland

February 12 2018

The capture of two notorious British jihadis could hold the key to bringing the body of murdered Perth aid worker, David Haines, back to his family. Extremists Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were caught by Kurdish forces last month and have been cooperating with US intelligence services. They were part of the IS execution group, dubbed “The Beatles”, which also included Mohamed Emwazi – the Brit who become known to the world as Jihadi John – and is said to have included a fourth man, Aine Davis. American officials said the captured pair have given interrogators the “best breakthrough” yet regarding the burial sites of Mr Haines, Manchester aid worker David Henvey and three American victims. All five were victims of the four Londoners, who filmed their barbaric executions and then released the footage to a horrified world. Mr Haines, a 44-year old father of two from Scone and former Perth Academy pupil, had been held captive by the group for 18 months prior to his death at their hands. He had dedicated his life to helping those in need in some of the world’s most dangerous places and had worked with victims of conflict in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East. Mr Haines was just ten days into a mercy mission to Syria with the French aid charity ACTED, when he was kidnapped along with Italian aid worker Federico Motka, on March 12, 2013. He was executed by the group, in September 2014, along with Mr Henvey, 47, and Americans James Foley, 40, Steven Sotlof, 31, and Peter Kassig, 31. Now, with two of their killers apparently cooperating with authorities, there is hope that their bodies may be recovered and given a proper burial. Speaking to The Scottish Mail on Sunday, Mr Haines’ daughter, Bethany, 20, said leaked details of the interrogation were “great news”. “There has always been the promise from the Foreign Office that they would find some remains at some point. “It is good that they are actually cooperating. “They are probably not doing it out of decency but out of fear that they will go to Guantanamo, but it is good all the same. “I have always hated the thought of him buried in a shallow grave in a place he doesn’t know. “Bringing him home will give me peace of mind. He could be brought back to his own country and his family could visit him.” Mohamed Emwazi was killed by a drone strike in 2015. Aine Davis is currently in prison.

Perth & Kinross

HMRC to seize shamed Perthshire businessman’s assets amidst claims of luxury lifestyle funded by crime

June 24 2017

A Government agency is looking to seize homes and cars linked to shamed Perthshire businessman Stuart Newing-Davis — despite his claims of poverty. He was this week sentenced to 32 months behind bars for a £174,000 VAT fraud despite desperate attempts to dodge jail. The businessman claimed market forces had put pressure on his businesses, forcing him to take the difficult decision to begin evading tax to prop them up. Investigators, however, have said the problems were the result of Newing-Davis using his empire to fund a luxury lifestyle he could not afford by legal means. They have also rubbished claims made in court that he is now a near penniless London bus driver who has a roof over his head thanks to the generosity of the YMCA. HMRC has confirmed his family’s assets — in particular those in France where his wife and two children live full-time — will be the focus of proceeds of crime legislation. After discovering evidence of fraud in 2012, investigators pored over his business records for months, comparing them with what he declared on tax returns, to snare the businessman. They said the 46-year-old had carried out the fraud while enjoying a comfortable lifestyle, including a holiday home in France and a nanny for his children. Anne-Marie Gordon is the assistant director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, which brought down his floundering business empire. She said he had formed a “scheme” to defraud the taxpayer with a view to benefiting himself and his wife Sarah, who was named as his co-accused when court proceedings began some years ago. “Newing-Davis thought he had covered his tracks, but his scheme to steal from the public to fund a lifestyle well beyond his means has landed him in jail,” Ms Gordon said. “Most people pay the tax they owe, when they owe it, knowing they are contributing to public services. “A small minority think they are above the law and should get those same services for free. “That isn’t fair and HMRC works tirelessly so that no-one is beyond our reach.” Newing-Davis, formerly of Bankfoot, ran an agency that supplied trained staff to the UK rail industry, Trainpeople.co.uk. He repeatedly falsified its accounts to prop up his second struggling business, Ptarmigan Transport Solutions. The court proceedings are far from Newing-Davis’ first brush with the law as he also found trouble as boss of Bankfoot busses. Fraud investigations also took place into the company’s claiming of Scottish Government subsidies and he was banned from holding an operator’s licence following a legal battle with transport giant Stagecoach. He was accused of copying their business practices and even their livery.

Perth & Kinross

Controversial drama goes ahead despite plea from Perth terror victim’s daughter

August 20 2017

A controversial hard-hitting drama about Islamic State will go despite a plea from the daughter of slain Perth man David Haines. Mr Haynes was murdered in 2014 by the man known as Jihadi John after being taken by terrorists while helping civil war victims in Syria. Ahead of the screening of the first part of Channel 4 drama The State, which claims to show the reality of life within Islamic State, his daughter Bethany Haines called for it to be postponed. The 20-year-old made the appeal in the wake of the Barcelona van attack which left 14 dead and many others injured. She said: “I believe Channel 4 should postpone its screening for at least a couple of weeks. “They should do so out of respect and humanity for the families suffering in the wake of the Barcelona atrocity. “To be honest, the violence in the drama would be upsetting to anyone but I think it would be particularly horrifying for those affected by the events of the last few days.” Bethany said it would not be helpful for those whose loved-ones had been killed or injured in the attacks to see the drama and knows better than most the long-lasting impact such tragedies can have on families. “Broadcasting a drama like this, no matter how well-made and intentioned it is, so soon after an attack like Barcelona, is going to cause upset. “I was 16 when my father, David Haines, was kidnapped by Islamic State. Now I’m 20, but whenever there is a fresh attack it brings back the horrors.” The State, by the acclaimed director Peter Kosminsky, tells the story of four Britons – two men and two women – who travel to Syria to join IS. It is said to be brutal and unrelenting in its efforts to depict the realities of what such people will find within the caliphate and shows how they become disillusioned with the terror group. The director has said he hopes it will be a “cautionary tale” and stressed there is absolutely no intention to glamorise the terrorist group. He said: “As far as I know there has been no other depiction of what happens to young British Muslims when they arrive in Islamic State. That is something worth depicting.”

Perth & Kinross

Man charged in connection with Dunkeld bank robbery

December 16 2016

A 28-year-old man has been charged in connection with a bank robbery in Dunkeld last month. Police units rushed to The Bank of Scotland branch on November 29 after a thief made-off with a three figure sum. A report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal and he is expected to appear at Perth Sheriff Court in due course.


130 cross Tay Road Bridge for Christian Aid

May 1 2016

More than 130 people took part in Christian Aid’s annual sponsored Tay Bridge Cross event. Among the participants was 98-year-old Douglas Tucker, who was accompanied by his granddaughter Annie, 20, and son Peter, 54, from St Andrews. A life-long supporter of the charity, Douglas has taken part in the Tay Bridge Cross for over 10 years and also appeared in a video for the its 70th anniversary conference.


Jailed thief told £1,700 booze bid was “inept but serious”

May 10 2016

A man filled a trolley “to the brim” with £1,700 worth of booze and tried to walk out of a supermarket because he was “angry” about a failed job interview. Gheorge Ilie was jailed over the bizarre offence, which he carried out to make it up to his family for missing out on an employment opportunity. The father of five’s lawyer told a court: “He was going to sell the items and take the money down to his family and offer that to them by way of compensation for not getting the job.” Dundee Sheriff Court heard Ilie tried to conceal the bottles with bags but security tags on them activated alarms as he trie to walk quickly out of the store. Fiscal depute John Adams told the court: “Witnesses were dealing with a matter at the customer service desk when they saw the accused walk briskly passed them towards the exit. “He was pushing a large trolley filled to the brim with bottles of various spirits. “Bags were placed on top of them in an attempt to conceal them. “The alarm system was triggered and the witnesses ran after the accused.” Ilie was escorted back to the store and held there until police arrived. His solicitor told the court he had been “unaware” the bottles were alarmed. Ilie, 40, of Nelson Street, East Ham, London, pleaded guilty on summary complaint to a charge of theft by shopligting at the Morrisons supermarket in Afton Way, Dundee, on April 8. Sheriff George Way jailed Ilie for 60 days and said: “What you were trying to do was steal quite a lot. “It may have been inept but it was still a serious attempt.”

Perth & Kinross

Search for missing pensioner focuses on Campsie area after police find 88-year-old’s car

February 2 2017

Specialist search teams have spent a third fruitless day searching for missing Perthshire pensioner James Morton. The discovery of the 88-year-old’s car by the banks of the River Tay focused attention on the fast flowing water. Police and civilian mountain rescue teams and water rescue trained firefighters joined a dog unit to scour the water and banks for sign of the retired farmer. Though a helicopter scoured miles of river from Guildtown to the estuary south of Perth earlier this week, land and water searches have continued to focus on the Campsie area. Away from the river, police officers have continued to make inquiries with family, friends and neighbours. They also continue to seek information from anyone who may have seen the 88-year-old in the hours before his disappearance. Mr Morton, of Oakbank Place in Guildtown, was last seen at his home in the village at around 8.30pm on Tuesday. The retired farmer is a well-liked and respected member of the community, which has been offering support to his family in the toughest of times. Police Scotland said: “Concerns are increasing for the welfare of James, who was last seen at around 8.30am on Tuesday January 31. “Officers can confirm that his car, a Silver Peugeot 207 registration KN62VML, was traced near the River Tay in the area of Campsie, by Guildtown. “Searches have been focused in that area.” Mr Morton is 5’10, with receding grey hair and when last seen was wearing a light coloured cloth cap, red and white checked shirt, navy blue jumper, a brown anorak, grey trousers and boots. He walks with the aid of a walking stick and may have had this with him. Anyone who may have seen a man matching his description is asked to call officers on 101. Search activities will continue today. Searches were carried out last month for missing Perth man Iain Guthrie after the 20-year-old disappeared from his home in the city. Family and friends have been working to keep the 20-year-old’s profile high, though they have all but given up hope of good news. Mr Guthrie was reported missing at the same time the alarm was raised that someone was in distress in the River Tay close to the Queens Bridge in Perth on the evening on December 19.

Perth & Kinross

Firefighters battle blaze at Bankfoot farm

June 22 2016

Flames tore through a Perthshire farm, reducing a huge barn to a charred ruin. Tonnes of baled hay within provided ample fuel for the fire and the building’s interior swiftly became a raging inferno. Smoke billowed into the air above Bankfoot as it burned, making the fire visible for miles around. Emergency services were scrambled to the scene, at Belstane Farm on the outskirts of the village, shortly after 2pm. Three units from Perth were swiftly joined by another from Dunkeld as crews discovered a 20x20 shed filled with hay engulfed in flame. They worked to prevent the fire from spreading to other buildings, which were dampened-down to keep them safe. As they did so, the barn began to crumple as the fire punched holes in its sides and its structure began to weaken. Scottish Fire and Rescue said the incident had been “under control” within a couple of hours. Two crews remained on scene for some hours, however, as it continued to burn. No-one was injured.


Major search operation on Tay to enter third day

June 13 2016

Emergency services scoured the Tay at Dundee for much of the weekend after reports of a man in the water. Thick fog was a constant opponent for Coastguard, Police and RNLI units who descended upon the river on Saturday afternoon. A second day of searching concluded yesterday without success. Recovery efforts are expected to resume today. Police Scotland first received reports of man entering the water near to the Tay Road Bridge shortly after 4pm on Saturday. The Broughty Ferry Lifeboat was scrambled and launches from the RNLI station were also detailed to search an area between the V&A construction site and Tesco on the Riverside. A short time later, they were joined by the Coastguard helicopter and throughout the afternoon the search area slowly widened to take in a stretch of water from Dundee Port to Dundee Airport. Spotters with binoculars were situated on the bridge and along the shoreline to direct the search, which continued until haar and poor light brought it to a halt. At one stage onlookers saw a flare in the water and as red smoke billowed, helicopter, lifeboat and launch all briefly converged, opposite Dundee airport. Just as swiftly, however, they split again and began once more to sweep the river, back and forward in an ultimately fruitless search. The Coastguard helicopter left shortly after to refuel before returning to make use of the last few moments of light. On Sunday, however, it was grounded at its base in the north of Scotland by thick fog. The Broughty Ferry lifeboat continued its search of the water, but crews were hampered throughout the day by the same concealing mirk. Police Scotland said it was continuing to carry out inquiries and assist in the ongoing search. A spokesman said: “Emergency services were alerted to a report of a member of the public, believed to be a man, entering the river Tay at around 4.20pm on Saturday.”