Linda Margaret ‘Lin’ Homer, HMRC chief executive, has form.
Lin Homer is charged with charging big time jammy tax dodgers with tax evasion.
Currently, she is getting a hard time grilled by the redoubtable Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster. Ms Homer is not a person prone to dynamic action, nor would it seem, spurred on by moral imperative. Asked why she had only collared one tax dodger out of 6,800 known to her department, she replied she wanted get the money not jail people. “Show me the money”.
We are dealing with tax evasion, not avoidance, that wonderful semantic that allows millions of wealthy people to hide millions of pounds from the tax man and the public purse, hence we all pay more into the pot and get less in return for our daily toil.
To date, French tax authorities have managed to recoup £200m from 3,000 named account holders, and the Spanish £180m from 2,900. Ms Homer has managed to secure one solitary conviction and £135m in unpaid hidden tax.
At this week’s hearing Homer’s nemesis, Margaret Hodge, was in fiery form. Looking Homer in the eye she said, “For you to sit there and say, as you are doing, that ‘We couldn’t get the money in the same way as the French and Spanish did,’ and ‘We didn’t litigate because we wanted to get the money in,’ and yet you did worse on the money – leaves me believing that you are not serving the British taxpayer.”
There are obvious questions to ask of Homer. If she is not under instruction from higher authority to delay or prevaricate why has she managed only one conviction? The only answer to that is, she was off duty ill, or, she is lethally inept. Making lack of staff an excuse doesn’t work because the government has claimed regularly that it is in the vanguard of the fight against endemic tax evasion. If you’re not lax and can seize the tax put a percentage to catching the next brood.
Hervé Falciani is the whistleblower at the epicentre of the HSBC storm. A computer expert, twas he who handed documents over to the British government in 2010. According to Mr Falciani he first began collecting client data from inside HSBC’s Swiss arm in 2006. Arrested and released in Geneva in 2008, he fled to France with information on 30,000 accounts, holding almost $120bn (£78bn) of assets. Swiss authorities are after his blood – such is the fate of whistle blowers.
His evidence includes accounts belonging to prominent figures in business, film, music and sport, and the heads of royal families. Heads will roll. The tax authorities seized the data in 2008. He claims the British authorities had the information no later than 2010.
Ms Homer admits they knew names as far back as 2010. She also admits senior civil servants alerted ministers that same year. And here’s the final twist – Cameron’s administration signed up to a Swiss tax deal in 2012 that included a commitment that the UK would, “not actively seek to acquire customer data stolen from Swiss banks”. Osborne announced the deal a triumph in the House of Commons – but then, Westminster lives the delusion it is still a major power broker.
Remarkable. You announce a vigorous campaign to catch tax criminals one day and the next sign a deal not to demand evidence available to you. As one poster said on another essay, “Mental.” So, why did Ms Homer apply the sloth tactic? – stay here, don’t move, hang on indefinitely for that fruit assuredly will fall into your lap one day. Was there no pressure on her to catch the bad boys? Could it have something to do with an inability to find a toilet seat even if she was sitting on it?
Have you noticed how no one will tell the truth? Are they all double-dealing lying bastards? Cameron has refused to say whether he ever discussed venal greed at the HSBC with Stephen Green, his chosen minister for Trade and Investment and HSBC chairman. Green, we should recall, is the chairman who dubbed claims of money laundering as, “an irresponsible attack on the HSBC’s international compliance procedures.”
Everything the UK Coalition gets involved in turns out to be a punishable offence.
Unnaturally for English, Cameron can not blame the French. They handed over the documents to the UK immediately they acquired them, and began their ‘hunt the tax dodger’ faster than you can say, ‘If anybody can Strauss-Khan can.’
Lin Homer is a full-time resident of Sleepy Hollow. Another, ‘let’s all go to the pub instead’ scandal took place when she was in a previous role years back in Birmingham. There, the Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC upheld allegations of ‘massive’ postal fraud relating to six seats won by Labour. The results were declared void and the polls in two wards rerun. “The system is wide open to fraud, and any would-be political fraudster knows that,” Judge Mawrey said.
The phrase published at the time has a familiar ring to it. “There is every likelihood the forthcoming general election will be lighted by postal vote fraud.”
The UK government at the time accused him of scare mongering. Mawrey answered the criticism. “Anybody who has sat through the case I have just tried, and listened to evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic, would find this statement surprising.” The petitioners also accused the city’s returning officer and chief executive – yes, it’s the one and only Lin Homer, of failing to discharge her duties in accordance with electoral law. Judge Mawrey said that Ms Homer “threw the rule book out of the window” to deal with overwhelming numbers of postal vote application forms received.
Ms Homer joined the civil service as Director-General of the Immigration Department at the Home Office. (How do these people keep getting promoted after causing a car crash?) Her department was re-organised in 2008, renamed the UK Border Agency, of which Homer became the first chief executive. In 2013, Homer’s tenure at UKBA was criticised for its “catastrophic leadership failure” by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which said it had been repeatedly misled by the Agency.
You wonder if she is fit to run a bath.
When it comes to catching tax evaders Ms Homer – no relation to the cartoon character though certainly sharing his propensity for lethargy and comic bungling – has done it again; thrown the last vestiges of the UK government’s honesty out the window.
And the bitch called Ravenous Greed ran off with it.
One other thing: it’s estimated welfare benefit fraud amounts to £2 billion a year, tax evasion over £120 billion. Benefit fraud gets you jailed. Tax fraud gets you more wealth.
This essay is written in conjunction with ‘HSBC – FU.’