A Gambian ambassador-at-large has been ordered to pay more than £80,000 about D5.6 million after being found guilty of withholding information from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) of the United Kingdom.
Vincent Bootes was tried in his absence at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Friday 26 November in a prosecution brought by TPR over allegations he failed to comply with two notices issued under Section 72 of the UK Pensions Act 2004.
The 58-year-old, who had previously entered a not guilty plea, claimed he could not attend court as he was considered persona non grata in the UK.
Reports in the British press alleged that Bootes had renounced his British citizenship to take a position as an ambassador for The Gambia.
The two notices had been issued as part of a TPR investigation into whistleblowers’ allegations that staff working for him at PGT Ceewrite Engineering, had not had automatic enrolment workplace pension contributions paid by his companies, despite the cash being deducted from their pay-packets.
Ambassador Bootes who describes himself as “a passionate philanthropist”, donated essential food supplies to The Gambia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in April last year during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He had also given sanitary supplies to the Gambia Police Force.
An ambassador-at-large is commonly appointed when a state wishes to advance a specific agenda, for example, international relations, women’s rights, Olympic preparations and counter-terrorism. In the case of Ambassador Bootes, his role is to build the global presence of The Gambia as well as securing foreign investments for the country.
The Standard made unsuccessful attempts to contact the Surrey businessman.