London

Bafta-nominated producers of Starsuckers film jailed for £2.2m tax scam

Christopher Walsh Atkins and Christina Slater Image copyright HMRC
Image caption Christopher Walsh Atkins and Christina Slater were found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, theft and fraud

Two Bafta-nominated film producers have been jailed for their part in a £2.2m tax scam.

Christopher Walsh Atkins, 40, from Gospel Oak, north London, and Christina Slater, 37, from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, filed inflated invoices to take advantage of tax breaks.

They falsely claimed to have spent £5.7m and made significant losses on Starsuckers and Mercedes the Movie.

Atkins was jailed for five years and Slater for four.

Each of them was banned for 12 years from being a company official after they were convicted at an earlier hearing of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, theft and fraud.

Southwark Crown Court heard that the scam apparently allowed wealthy investors to falsely claim around £40,000 tax relief for every £20,000 invested.

'Motivated by greed'

Government tax credits, which were set up to help promote the British film industry, allow investors to claim back 40% of the film company's losses.

Walsh Atkins, who gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, made the Starsuckers documentary in 2009. It had attempted to expose falling journalism standards by selling fake celebrity stories to tabloids.

The pair had been nominated for a Bafta in 2008 for Taking Liberties, a film about the erosion of civil liberties.

Judge Martin Beddoe said it did not matter that they were using the money to fund films as opposed to "a yacht, a Picasso".

"You were neither making nor playing Robin Hood. What is not to be ignored is that both directly and indirectly you cheated the revenue of large sums of money entirely for your own purposes and you put at risk the loss of even greater sums.

"Moreover what you actually took home is really neither here nor there."

Jennie Granger, of HM Revenue and Customs, said: "This was an audacious attempt to defraud HMRC and was motivated by the pure greed of dishonest and wealthy individuals.

"The majority of those involved in this fraud had no interest in the film industry, or regard for the impact of their criminality on honest taxpayers."

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites