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Dundee businessman who evaded £24k in tax avoids jail after paying it back

Dundee businessman who evaded £24k in tax avoids jail after paying it back

A businessman who evaded paying £24,000 in tax to keep his floundering company afloat has avoided a jail sentence after paying the money back.

Christopher Cook, 45, of Dundee Road, Broughty Ferry, was ordered to undertake the maximum of 300 hours of unpaid work after Sheriff Alastair Brown was told he was due to start another restoration project at a historic chapel in Dundee in the next two to three weeks, employing eight people.

He had pleaded guilty on indictment to two charges of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of income tax between April 2009 and April 2010 at addresses in Dundee.

The court heard that Cook defrauded HMRC out of more than £24,000 – claiming a bogus £2,000 refund and evading £22,185.20 in income tax.

He was rumbled when the tax authority started an investigation into his company Vernonblues Ltd.

Fiscal depute Gavin Burton told the court he wanted to withdraw the proceeds of crime application after the Crown accepted that Cook had repaid the amount.

Solicitor George Donnelly said Cook was a married man, a first offender and had not been in trouble before or since the commission of the offence.

He said the economic crash 10 years ago had caused the downfall of his company and he had committed the crime not for personal gain but to see the renovation of an award-winning block of flats through to its completion.

He added the sale of each flat went towards paying off his creditors.

“He bitterly regrets it and is not proud of what he did. His remorse is genuine,” Mr Donnelly said.

“His present project is the sympathetic restoration of an old chapel in Candle Lane in Dundee and work is expected to begin in the next two to three weeks.”

Sheriff Alastair Brown said: “You carried out the deliberate fraud of public funds, because your business was in difficulties.

“In my experience that is often the reason why people in your position commit fraud.”

He said he believed Mr Donnelly’s assertion that Cook was “not inherently dishonest” and the offence was committed “out of a sense of desperation”.

However, he added: “In a situation like that the only position is to be honest, and if that means losing a project or losing a business then so be it.”

He said it was significant that he had not offended previously and it was also significant that he had repaid the money.

He said for that reason he could step away from a custodial sentence but that he would have to do the maximum of 300 hours of unpaid work as part of a community payback order.

Cook was told he must complete those hours within 12 months.

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