Great Leighs founder arrested for VAT fraud

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  • John Holmes, founder and former owner Great Leighs racecourse, was arrested last week (10 December) in connection with a £2.4million VAT fraud.

    Mr Holmes was bailed to appear at his local police station in March. His partner Jill Turner and an unnamed 64-year-old man from High Wycombe, Bucks, were also arrested by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officials.  They were not charged.

    HMRC said they were questioned in relation to suspected fraud by “false representation, cheating the public revenue and money laundering”.

    Mr Holmes told local newspapers he denied any wrongdoing.

    HMRC has not divulged whether the alleged frauds took place during the development and operational period of Great Leighs, during which Ms Turner worked in the accounts department, or since the racecourse was sold on to MC Racetracks Ltd in 2011.

    Mr Holmes is linked to MC Racetracks in his role as consultant to its betting partner BETSI Ltd. Ms Turner was the named agent on a recent planning application for the racecourse.

    MC Racetracks chairman Keith Brown said he had “nothing to do with John Holmes” and could not comment further.

    Great Leighs, in Essex, was Britain’s first new racecourse for more than 80 years when it opened in 2008. Its racing facilities were acclaimed by trainers and jockeys, but the grandstand drew criticism.

    It was put into administration by the Royal Bank of Scotland in January 2009, just eight months after opening, owing around £23million.

    The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) turned down applications in 2012 and 2013 from MC Racetracks to allow the “new” Great Leighs back into the racing calendar, without giving a reason.

    The BHA said: “None of the individuals [arrested] is a licensed person [jockey, trainer or agent].

    “This is a matter for HMRC.”

    This story was originally published in 19 December issue of Horse & Hound.

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