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Arbroath ship captain ordered to pay back every penny of the £54k he conned from taxman

Dundee Sheriff Court.
Dundee Sheriff Court.

A ship’s captain who conned the taxman out of £54,000 to fund his gambling habit has been ordered to pay back every penny he took.

Robert McCaffray, 59, was allowed to walk free from court despite defrauding the taxman over a seven-year period.

The international skipper, who earns £50,000 per year, was ordered to carry out 300 hours unpaid work and pay back the missing tax cash at £1,500 per month.

Sheriff William Wood told McCaffray that he could have been jailed but noted that he had already paid back about £15,000 to HMRC.

He said: “Income tax or benefit fraud at this level can often attract a custodial sentence. There was a persistent failure to make tax returns. It was over a substantial period of time.”

Perth Sheriff Court was told previously that McCaffray’s gambling addiction was so bad that during some months every payment from his joint bank account was to a bookmaker.

McCaffray was employed as the skipper of a guard vessel patrolling international waters when he was caught by a large-scale investigation into widespread tax evasion in the fishing industry.

McCaffray, of Newbigging Drive, Arbroath, admitted defrauding HM Revenue and Customs out of £54,000 between April 2008 and April 2015.

Fiscal depute Eilidh Robertson told the court: “He was employed on a self-employed basis as the skipper of a guard vessel in the oil and gas industry at the time.

“In October 2015, an HMRC task force tackling tax evasion in the fishing industry identified the accused as a person of interest.

“It was uncovered that the accused had registered for self-assessment in March 2001 when he was working as a fisherman, but no income had been declared or tax paid.

“Evidence was obtained from the manager of the guard vessel and the book-keeper. He was earning between £39,000 and £56,000 per year but did not declare or pay tax on his earnings.

“The tax evaded amounted to £54,000. He did not hold a bank account in his own name. His money was paid into an account held jointly by his wife and son.

“Bank statements were obtained and showed significant payments to various bookmakers. There were dozens of transactions for hundreds of pounds per day to bookmakers.

“Some months, almost every single transaction was to a bookmaker and this pattern persists for the entire period of the offence.”

Solicitor Billy Rennie, defending, said his client was still working in the same £50,000 per year job and was in a position to pay back the tax he had evaded within three years.

He said: “He thinks he could pay back as much as £20,000 per year. He is clearly now beginning to understand his responsibility.”

Mr Rennie told Dundee Sheriff Court, where sentencing took place, that his client was already voluntarily paying back more than £1,500 per month.

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