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Fochabers fisherman admits defrauding HMRC of £90,000

By Jonathan Clark

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A MORAY fisherman who earned more than £500,000 in recent years evaded paying tax for a five-year period.

Alan Hunter (51) of Milne Road, Fochabers, admitted defrauding HMRC of £90,000 in revenue between 2012 and 2017 last week at Inverness Sheriff Court.

He had originally been charged with a higher sum of £124,000 from 2010.

The self-employed share fisherman failed to submit any self assessments during that period, fiscal depute Robert Weir told Sheriff Sara Matheson.

Mr Weir said that Hunter was caught in Operation Ode 17, an investigation into the suspected fraudulent evasion of income tax.

He said: "He was a share fisherman working on the vessel Carina and the Don Fishing Company paid Hunter his share of the profits for working on the boat.

"A share fisherman is not employed under a contract of service and gets paid by sharing the profits, and all should be registered as self-employed.

"The company has their main office in Peterhead and provided HMRC with details of who crews their boats.

"It was then discovered that Alan Hunter, although registered for self-assessment, had never actually declared earnings or paid tax or national insurance.

"Over the years, HMRC has tried, with mixed success, to contact Hunter. In 2005 he advised HMRC that he was living in Florida."

His defence agent, Keith Tuck, said his client was suffering from depression and had not been working due to the strain of the prosecution.

He added: "Custody is a real consideration and he knows this. He is now separated from his wife as a result.

"But he has been offered a skipper's job, earning £85,000 to £100,000 a year which would allow him to make significant repayment."

Sheriff Matheson deferred sentence until September 10 for a background report and a restriction of liberty order assessment.

She also instructed Hunter to surrender his passport, after he denied owning property abroad.

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