Jail for Gary Lineker's wealthy brother over £220,000 tax fraud

THE brother of the football star and TV presenter Gary Lineker was jailed for two and a half years yesterday, after he admitted a £220,000 tax fraud.

Wayne Lineker, a millionaire sports bar owner, smuggled cash into Britain under the tax radar, using a "tried and tested" money mule system of unsuspecting family and friends.

At first bundles of pesetas and escudos from pubs in Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands were laundered into sterling at bureaux de change. Then City stockbroker John Stacey, 56, was brought in to secure a better exchange rate by siphoning it through several bank accounts.

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But the scam came unstuck when auditors realised accounting rules had been breached during the transfer of Lineker's secret profits.

The two and David Hodges, 43, Lineker's manager, were jailed for five years, eight months in total at London's Southwark Crown Court yesterday.

Judge Stephen Robbins warned Lineker, 43, who owns a 2 million mansion in Fyfield, Essex, that unless he paid back the outstanding 90,000, he faced 24 further months in jail.

Lineker, whose brother now presents the BBC's Match of the Day, admitted conspiracy to defraud the Inland Revenue between 1999 and 2001.

The court heard the sentence could have "disastrous consequences" for the pub empire built up by Lineker since 1988. It was in that year the former Leicester market trader decided to move to Tenerife and cash in on his brother's name. There he opened the World Famous Lineker's Bar. Other bars - simply called Lineker's - followed in Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. They are filled with footballing memorabilia and attract players, celebrities and fans.

At one time proud of his brother's achievement, Gary Lineker once said: "Wayne is good at business - he has always been able to turn a penny into tuppence."

Remarkably, Wayne Lineker was once considered a better football prospect than his elder brother, who became England's second highest goalscorer and was never booked in a career with Leicester City, Everton, Barcelona and Tottenham.

The court heard that Wayne Lineker did not declare all the profits from his chain and instead smuggled the equivalent of 220,000 into Britain.

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As a result, the Inland Revenue lost 80,000, which rose to 90,000 with inflation.

Money was paid into several bank accounts, including Stacey's and Hodges'.

When interviewed, Lineker told police his company's procedures were "lax" and they had simply failed to identify all the money he had paid in.

Later, the businessman admitted: "We don't declare all our takings to the tax authorities in Spain either, you know."

Judge Robbins told Lineker he defrauded honest taxpayers.

Stacey of Southend, Essex, was jailed for 18 months after being convicted of conspiracy earlier.

Hodges, of Waltham Abbey, Essex, was given 20 months after admitting conspiracy.

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