'Thoroughly dishonest': former councillor Robert Payne jailed for tax fraud

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Robert Payne Robert Payne

Former Bradford councillor Robert Payne was today jailed for two years for pocketing more than £90,000 by setting up crooked companies to swindle income tax and VAT.

Judge Peter Benson told Payne, 38, who was dressed all in black: “You are a thoroughly dishonest man who behaved in a thoroughly dishonest way to milk the public purse.”

Payne was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court today for three offences of fraud and three of acting as a company director while banned from doing so.

He was barred for three years from setting up a company in June 2011 when he received a suspended jail term for fraud.

Prosecutor Nadim Bashir said that Payne, who was a Conservative and Independent councillor for the Keighley West ward, dishonestly claimed almost £140,000, but was actually paid £91,243.

After his company, ARL Enterprises, was wound up, Payne set up three further companies – Airedale Accounting Group Ltd, Airedale Company Formations Ltd and Airedale Leasing Ltd – while in prison for animal cruelty.

Mr Bashir said Payne was the “true controlling and managing mind” behind the three companies.

He persuaded people to set up their own limited companies and, without their knowledge, claimed back tax.

Mr Bashir said Payne “was using figures from his head” and his employees became so suspicious they left.

He was doing “very little legitimate business” while making bogus claims on the public revenue.

Payne’s barrister, Jason McAdam, said his client had been treated for psychiatric illness and was on medication for depression. “His life was in turmoil, he was drinking and he was on medication,” Mr McAdam said.

Payne, now living in Blackpool, had turned his life around by giving up alcohol and doing charity work, the court heard. He had “robbed Peter to pay Paul” and had nothing to show for his criminality, it was said.

Judge Benson told Payne: “You were the controlling hand behind these wholly dishonest enterprises.” He said: “They were sham companies to be a vehicle for cheating the public purse.”

Payne stood in the dock in a black suit, black shirt and black tie, hands clasped in front of him, as he was banned from acting as a company director for six years.

Judge Benson made a confiscation order, stating that Payne’s benefit from his criminality was £91,243 and his available assets were £5.

In December, 2011, Payne was locked up for five months for animal cruelty and a month for breaching the suspended jail sentence for fraud.

He tortured and slaughtered his four pet kittens by swinging them round at his then home in Ethel Street, Keighley, and smashing their heads.

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