Gambian ambassador guilty of withholding pensions information

A Gambian ambassador has been found guilty of withholding pensions information from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and ordered to pay more than £82,000.

The ambassador, Vincent Bootes, was tried in his absence at Brighton Magistrates Court on 26 November over allegations he failed to comply with two notices issued under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004.

The two notices had been issued as part of TPR’s investigation into allegations made by whistleblowers that staff working for him at PGT Ceewrite Engineering had not been paid auto-enrolment pension contributions by his companies.

This was despite the fact that the cash had been deducted from their pay-packets.

Bootes, who had previously entered a not guilty plea, claimed he could not attend the trial as he was considered persona non grata in the UK.

He has renounced his British citizenship to take a position as an ambassador for The Republic of Gambia in West Africa.

The notices requiring Bootes to supply TPR with information about his companies were issues to him at his Hampshire address on 1 June 2018 and 12 September 2018.

Although the ambassador claimed to have provided the information, TPR said that it had never received it.

Furthermore, even if Bootes had provided the information as he claimed, it was only purported to have been sent a year after it was due.

Bootes was found guilty of both offences.

“In terms of culpability I find given the continuing history of lack of compliance, it’s clear to me his intention is at the highest level of avoidance and manipulation, and this places his culpability in the highest category of intent,” stated Judge Szagun.

Mr Bootes was ordered to pay more than £82,970, made up of £30,000 fines for each of the two offences, £22,800 in costs and a £170 surcharge.

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