PR guru rejects allegations of unpaid £100,000 tax bill
A Dragons' Den PR guru who is due to appear in court tomorrow charged with cheating the public revenue of £100,000 is suing Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for wrongful arrest.
Colourful New Zealander Richard Hillgrove is also suing a third party who he entrusted with handling his financial affairs.
Mr Hillgrove, who is based in Somerset, represents Dragons' Den stars James Caan, Duncan Bannatyne and Simon Woodroffe.
He has also worked with Sting and Trudie Styler and said he is credited with turning around restaurant chain Little Chef.
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He is to appear at a preliminary hearing in relation to the charge at Taunton Crown Court and is strenuously denying the allegation.
Yesterday Mr Hillgrove called the charge "a face saving exercise by the HMRC", after what he described as a "dawn raid" at his property in Somerton.
He said four bullet-proof vested revenue officers raided his family home at 6.30am on June 12 and put him and his wife in a cell in Taunton with initial allegations including money laundering, which were later dropped.
He said: "They stormed the house, pulled my wife from her bed and told her 80-year-old grandfather, who lives in an adjoining annex to take charge of our sick 20-month-old daughter Lola who had early stage chicken pox, otherwise she would be given to Social Services.
"To try and avoid egg on their faces, the Bristol HMRC team are trying to steer through a single charge taken completely out of context and without all the facts."
He added: "The HMRC Officers, who questioned me at Taunton Police Station were completely unaware of any Time to Pay arrangement I made with HMRC which is evident in the taped interview I gave to them and also unaware that almost £70,000 had been made towards tax arrears on the LLP. This is a serious case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing".
He added: "The HMRC are looking for a trophy kill as their targets for criminal prosecutions have increased five-fold recently."
He said the dawn-arrest is more akin to countries without democracies.
The PR man said: "The HMRC Officers made constant references and jibes during questioning as to 'where is your cowboy hat?' They said they had watched me wearing my trademark cowboy hat on the BBC News. I'm excellent at what I do, but the numbers side of the business is not my forte. It is always my intention to pay my taxes. We simply had a cashflow issue. I am not a tax avoider. I don't have any clever schemes set up."