Caroline Joseph had a time-share in the Bahamas
A Wimbledon solicitor stole £96,000 in VAT to help fund a lavish lifestyle, including buying a time-share in the Bahamas as well as a Porsche and BMW, Kingston Crown court heard.
Caroline Joseph, aged 43, from Lanherne House on The Downs, has been sentenced after being investigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as a result of a taskforce set up to identify people avoiding paying tax on property investment income.
Joseph de-registered her law firm Hanover Property Lawyers, also known as Hanover Solicitors, in 2008 saying it had stopped trading a year earlier. However, for five years she continued to practise law as Hanover Solicitors, and kept the VAT she charged her clients.
Alongside her earnings as a successful solicitor, Joseph used the money she stole to support her lifestyle, purchasing a Porsche and BMW, funding a private nursery place and buying a time-share in the Bahamas, as well as maintaining a portfolio of buy-to-let properties in London.
She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years, when she appeared at Kingston Crown court on Friday (February 12). She was also ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,500 costs.
Anthony Swarbrick, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “As a solicitor, Joseph knew the rules and her legal responsibilities, but chose to flout them thinking that she could continue operating her business under our radar and that the law did not apply to her.
“She will now have time to reflect on her actions. Her reputation and professional standing are now in tatters.”
Confiscation proceedings to recover the proceeds of the fraud are now underway.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority closed Hanover Solicitors, of Basil Street, London SW3, on August 17, 2015. It stated: “There was reason to suspect dishonesty in connection with the practice of Caroline Joseph of Hanover Solicitors.”
February 15, 2016