With those words, Michael Stainer knew that his final appeal against personal bankruptcy was doomed. Appearing before Chief Bankruptcy Registrar Briggs in the High Court on January 9th, Stainer was trying to reverse the November 8th decision of Insolvency and Companies Judge Barber that bankrupted both Stainer and his wife Doris. It was therefore fitting that it was Judge Barber’s words used in November that were quoted again.
The battle between HMRC and the Stainers (pictured) has been running for several years with the famous July 15th 2015 “Dawn Raid”, in which the Stainers and their loyal henchman Robert Richardson were all arrested, and several appearances before the Tax Tribunal, ending with the final appeal against the HMRC debt being thrown out on December 8th 2018.
Both Registrar Briggs, and HMRC’s barrister were at pains to point out that the debt was a statutory debt. The phrase statutory debt is used to describe any debt that may be owed to a statutory body such as a government department, local authority or court. As such, the debt was now beyond challenge. Stainer then sought to argue that the claim against him and his wife related to a partnership known as the Grand Folkestone Partnership that had never existed and therefore could not have any liability. He claimed that the Official Receiver encouraged him in this view when he was formally interviewed.
However, the October 12th 2017 appeal In The Upper Tribunal Tax and Chancery Chamber before Judge Greg Sinfield and Judge Timothy Herrington had already given this argument short shrift.
However not to be deterred, and even after hearing the decision, Stainer protested to Chief Registrar Briggs that he had additional evidence to submit and that he was still being denied access to essential documents by HMRC. He should have remembered that he had repeatedly, during multiple previous adjournments, been given the invitation to attend at HMRC’s offices in Croydon to seek out these documents. It was his repeated failure to do this that caused Judge Barber to finally lose patience with his prevarication and to make reference to the merry-go-round stopping.
In response, Chief Registrar Briggs very politely re-affirmed his decision and Mr Stainer left the Court.
So what happens next? Until the appeal was heard, the Insolvency Practitioner was limited in taking any action to recover assets. Now, his statutory duty is to identify, secure, value and dispose of of all the Stainer assets for the benefit of all creditors, who include HMRC, the service charge account of the Grand, Folkestone and Hythe Council and quite possibly others. The principal asset would be the holiday-flat empire consisting of 18 flats in the Grand.