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Five to be charged over £125m films tax relief fraud

Five include Salt co-directors Robert Bevan and Cyril Megret and former Little Wing Films execs. UPDATE: Salt offers comment.

Five people are due to appear in Birmingham Magistrates’ court in June in connection with a film tax scam.

Salt co-directors Robert Bevan and Cyril Megret, executive producers Keith Hayley and Charles Savill formerly of Little Wing Films (as was Bevan), and Norman Leighton will each face three charges - conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to falsify documents, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

It is alleged that the tax relief fraud cost the public revenue around £125m ($194m), according to the CPS.

Andrew Penhale from the CPS said the evidence suggested there was “a conspiracy to defraud investors”.

“It is alleged that, between January 1, 2002 and July 1, 2011, a tax relief that allows investors in the British film industry to offset losses against other tax liabilities was abused and dishonestly marketed in order to cheat the public revenue,” Mr Penhale added.

According to imdb, Hayley’s numerous credits as executive producer include 2008 drama Little Ashes starring Robert Pattinson and Savill’s include 2005 drama Chromophobia.

It comes one month after five people from across the UK were convicted for a tax scam in which they tried to claim £2.8m ($4.3m) for a Hollywood blockbuster that they never intended to make [click here for the full story].

The fraudsters, who said a Jordanian company was backing the film for £19m ($29.5m), attempted to claim £1.48m ($2.3m) in VAT and £1.29m ($2m) in tax credits.

UPDATE: UK sales outfit Salt subsequently issued the following joint statement from managing director Samantha Horley and head of international James Norrie ScreenDaily:

“The Salt team would like to make it absolutely clear that no allegations have been made against the company by HMRC and that the company has not been the subject of any investigations. Salt are in the business of selling films and getting them made and not in the business of setting up tax schemes. So as far as we are concerned it is business as usual.

“On a personal note we would like to add that anyone who knows Robert and Cyril will attest they are good, principled people, otherwise we would not have been partners with them as long as we have, so they have our support through this difficult time.”

Readers' comments (6)

  • Well, Keith Hayley co-produced my feature film Preaching to the Perverted and all I can say is that he conducted himself with complete integrity and honesty.

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    Keith, Robert, Charles and Cyril were instrumental in helping to launch my career as a film director. Without their support four of my films might never have been made. It is my understanding that everything they did to procure finance was within the boundaries of the law at the time.

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  • 40 films in 10 years...!?

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  • The fact that major companies do the same thing and get away with it... Oh, yeah. Don't want to upset them do you?

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  • Keith Hayley has helped me make four indie Brit. pics since 2004. Without his support, I would not have got started as an indie Brit. producer. I owe him and his team a huge debt.

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  • Keith Hayley produced my directorial debut Savage Hearts in 1994.
    Throughout he proved a beacon of probity, integrity, honesty and common sense.
    He supported me as a film-maker then and later helped me with development funds.
    I am indebted to him and the team.

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