Plush hotels at centre of Hampstead fugitive’s alleged £1million tax evasion
- Credit: Supplied by Willemijntje Fenton-Bijleveld
The tax liability of a fugitive who fled South Africa wanted on 348 criminal charges of tax fraud and started a new life in Hampstead may stretch to £1million, the Ham&High can reveal.
This paper’s special investigation has exposed the extraordinary history of businessman and former dentist Edmond Fenton.
The 71-year-old British national, of Winchester Road, fled South Africa in 2007 wanted on 348 counts of tax fraud and forfeited bail.
New information received by the Ham&High this week has allowed us for the first time to reveal the amount of money involved in the case.
This newspaper has seen a copy of a 14-page annexure to the South Africa charge sheet.
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It show the criminal charges against Mr Fenton and companies he was associated with relate to unpaid tax, VAT and PAYE contributions totalling 22.6million South African Rands.
By today’s exchange rate this is £1million.
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But when the charges were filed in March 2007 the exchange rate was higher, so the figure is closure to £1.6million by historic rates.
This week South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority made its latest statement on Mr Fenton’s case.
A spokesman told the Ham&High: “The position remains the same.
“We will have another look at it to see what the British attitude is, but we don’t think we are in a position to make an extradition request to the United Kingdom at this stage.
“That’s what our position is.”
Tax offences are not covered by extradition treaties between the UK and South Africa.
The new charge sheet documents show Mr Fenton and 12 companies he is associated with are charged with 19million Rands of tax evasion.
Other counts relate to unpaid VAT for two beach front hotels on Cape Town’s Riviera coast which were partly owned by Mr Fenton, the Strand Beach Hotel and Van Riebeek Hotel, and unpaid PAYE contributions for the Van Riebeek.
A well-known socialite and hotel owner before his flight from Cape Town, Mr Fenton featured regularly in the society columns of newspapers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Old photographs show him pictured alongside South African president Jacob Zuma, former South African finance minister Trevor Manuel and former British prime minister Sir John Major.
On his return to London in 2007 Mr Fenton immediately set up business in the UK, running a TV production company called TV London Ltd whose supporters included Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
TV London Ltd went bust in January 2010 owing more than £250,000 to creditors.
The office of South African president, Jacob Zuma, and the office of the South African minister for police did not respond to the Ham&High’s request for comment on Mr Fenton’s case.
When the Ham&High tried to contact Mr Fenton this week we were told he is out of the country.
This newspaper has made repeated requests to Mr Fenton to explain why he absconded from South Africa and why he has not returned to face charges against him, but he has not commented.
WHAT WOULD £1MILLION BUY IN SOUTH AFRICA?
1million HIV tests
Today the South African government pays around 20-30 Rands for a HIV test meaning £1million would pay for almost 1million people to be screened.
55 school libraries
A report by the Equal Education campaign in 2010 estimated the cost of building a new school library in South Africa at 400,000 Rands.
So £1million would pay for 55 new libraries. Equal Education says approximately 20,000 schools in South Africa are without libraries, thereby denying their pupils access to regular reading opportunities.
17 doctors to be trained
The University of Cape Town estimated in 2012 that it cost 1.3 million Rands to train a South African doctor.
At this cost, £1million would pay for 17 new doctors to complete life saving qualifications.
Two thirds of a school
South Africa’s Department of Education estimates the cost of building a new public school at 30million to 60million Rands.
At the lower figure £1million would pay for two thirds of a new school building.
The average cost of book in South Africa in 2009 was 125 Rands which means 176,000 titles could be bought for £1million.