Michelle Mone’s husband Doug Barrowman cleared of any wrongdoing in tax fraud trial in Spain

21 March 2024, 00:10

Doug Barrowman was cleared of any wrongdoing in the trial.
Doug Barrowman was cleared of any wrongdoing in the trial. . Picture: Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

Michelle Mone’s husband has been cleared of any wrongdoing following a Spanish embezzlement and tax fraud trial.

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British businessman Doug Barrowman, 58, had been told he faced up to five and a half years in jail after being accused of involvement in a multi-million tax evasion scam.

But Mr Barrowman, husband of Michelle Mone, was told on Wednesday he had been cleared of any wrongdoing following a trial in Spain.

Six other British businessmen also attended court in the northern Spanish city of Santander over six days at the end of January and the start of February.

These were Paul Ruocco, Mark Price Williams, David Powell, Timothy Eve, Michael Walton and Stephen Ellis and were all also declared innocent by the three trial judges on Wednesday.

The misappropriation and tax fraud case was brought against them over a 2008 cable factory purchase.

Mr Barrowman was one of two of the largest shareholders in their now-defunct company B3 Cable Solutions Spain, which bought the plant.

The case focused on a £5.3 million payment made by the cable firm in July 2008 to a ‘linked’ UK company called Axis Ventura.

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Doug Barrowman was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Doug Barrowman was cleared of any wrongdoing. Picture: Alamy

Axis Ventura was founded by Mr Barrowman which a number of the defendants were directors of.

The prosecutor alleged that Mr Barrowman and five of his associates pocketed the multi-million sum through an invoice for consultancy services which she claimed they inflated or never provided.

She also accused all seven defendants of defrauding the Spanish Treasury by claiming tax relief on the six-figure ‘consultancy fee’ in the company’s 2009 annual return.

During day two of the trial, Mr Barrowman admitted to playing a ‘senior’ role in the £16 million purchase of the French-owned cable factory near Santander.

However, he told the court he had resigned as a director of Axis Ventura and sold his shares in the company two months before the purchase went through.

Other defendants denied the allegations that Axis Ventura’s representatives did no work on the deal and had fabricated the invoice to pocket money from the firm.

Mr Ellis is the only one of the seven defendants who had the misappropriation charge against him dropped before the end of the trial.

Michelle Mone and her husband are also currently being investigated over allegations of fraud.
Michelle Mone and her husband are also currently being investigated over allegations of fraud. Picture: Alamy

The three judges released their ruling on Wednesday, which said there was ‘abundant documentation’ that showed negotiations between Axis and the cable factor’s former owners, proving that services were provided.

Judges noted that while the money paid to Axis was ‘disproportionate’ and the operation was ‘strange’ it did not indicate any criminal wrongdoing.

“The prosecution accusation was based specifically on the non-existence of services. The possibility of the criminal consideration of an excessive or disproportionate payment hasn't been touched on,” the judges’ report read.

The judges also said that while tax relief claimed from the Spanish Treasury could be considered very high but was ‘acceptable’.

It had not been proven that the money paid to Axis ended up in an offshore bank account, as prosecutors had alleged, the judges also ruled in the 26-page document.

It comes after it emerged in January that Mr Barrowman and his wife Michelle Mone had £75m in assets frozen by prosecutors amid an ongoing probe into allegations of fraud.

The pair’s assets were frozen or restrained by a court order as they face an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) into alleged PPE fraud.

The allegations surround PPE Medpro - a company that the couple is close to - which was awarded more than £200m to supply the government with protective medical equipment amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Medpro is accused of delivering faulty PPE to the government during the pandemic after it was awarded an £81 million contract in June and later a £121 million contract for surgical gowns.

Mone and Barrowman have both denied the allegations against them and say the gowns were supplied in accordance with the contract.

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