The Left-wing barrister leading a legal challenge against Boris Johnson over his alleged ‘Covid cronyism’ was last night accused of hypocrisy after it emerged he has worked to minimise the tax liabilities of millionaires.
Jolyon Maugham QC – once dubbed ‘an infamous fox murderer’ after clubbing one of the animals to death – is heading a crowd-funded campaign against Mr Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock over claims they acted unlawfully by appointing their ‘chums’ to three top jobs in the fight against Covid-19, without opening the processes to competition. Mr Maugham has been granted an application for judicial review over a ‘value for money’ challenge to the appointment of Tory peer Dido Harding as the head of NHS Test and Trace, Kate Bingham as head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce and Mike Coupe as director of testing at NHS Test and Trace.
Mr Maugham claims the correct use of public money is ‘fundamentally the issue’ behind his campaign. But during a lucrative career as a tax barrister, Mr Maugham represented the super-rich in their attempts to avoid around £1 billion in taxes, during which he was promoted as an expert in ‘tax avoidance transactions’.
Mr Maugham represented the super-rich in their attempts to avoid around £1 billion in taxes, during which he was promoted as an expert in ‘tax avoidance transactions’
The case against Mr Johnson’s appointments, brought jointly by Mr Maugham’s Good Law Project and the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think-tank, argues the Prime Minister and Mr Hancock broke the rules and acted in a discriminatory way by running a ‘chumocracy'
His clients included participants in the Eclipse tax avoidance scheme which was used by celebrities and sports stars to try to avoid £635 million in tax using tax reliefs designed to benefit the film industry. He has also represented a wealthy individual who used the Icebreaker scheme to try to avoid £120 million in tax and a French financier working in London who used the Goldcrest film scheme to seek to avoid around £8 million in tax.
Mr Maugham was quoted last November saying that individuals should ‘offer their time and talents in service of the public good’.
The case against Mr Johnson’s appointments, brought jointly by Mr Maugham’s Good Law Project and the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think-tank, argues the Prime Minister and Mr Hancock broke the rules and acted in a discriminatory way by running a ‘chumocracy’. The case will claim that all three appointments were at least partly made because of the Tory connections of the three and not solely on merit.
Mr Maugham said: ‘The story we tell ourselves is that things like this don’t happen here. That the handing out of important roles to friends, without competition, is something for abroad. But the pandemic has exposed that story as a fairytale.’
The lawyer sparked a furore on Boxing Day 2019 after tweeting about killing a fox while wearing his wife’s satin kimono gown when the animal got into his hen-house. After the High Court granted the Judicial Review, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg rejected calls to give a statement to MPs on the issue, accusing the ‘fox murderer’ of ‘fussing and wasting time’.
Last night, Mr Maugham said: ‘I had a hugely successful career as a barrister during which I, quite properly, complied with my professional obligations… to represent all who sought my services as an advocate, including HMRC and taxpayers. While doing that work I wrote about and lobbied against tax avoidance.’