A FORMER soldier claims he has been ‘trapped’ in a Kafka-esque Catch-22 after getting caught up in a tax fraud in which he insists he was a victim.
Tim Hawkins, a former officer with the Royal Artillery, claims he has been unable to leave the country – or work – for nearly seven years.
His nightmare began when he was arrested during a family holiday to the Costa Brava in May 2008.
The financial advisor, 57, was dragged from his wife and two young sons, aged four and eight, as they arrived at Girona airport passport control.
Bundled into a cell, he was held for 15 hours with no explanation, and left terrified, confused and unable to speak to his family.
It emerged that Hawkins – who left the army to run a finance business in Manchester – faced an international arrest warrant, after being linked to a Spanish friend’s tax scam a decade earlier.
“The whole situation has been a complete nightmare,” the father-of-four told the Olive Press. “It is never ending and has destroyed my life.
“I did little wrong, as the courts agreed, but I have become a victim of Spanish bureaucracy and the injustice of the justice system.”
Currently living in Torremolinos, Hawkins, who served in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, insists he has been forced to remain in Spain without his passport.
Despite receiving support from his British MP Mike Thornton, the Spanish Embassy and the British Legion, he is unable to move forward.
While he was only found to be a small, passive cog in a complicated tax scam, the authorities have refused to return his passport as an appeal process is ongoing.
“It means I am unable to go home, unable to work and am living in limbo,” he explained.
A British Legion grant to help pay his rent and travel costs for hearings has now dried up, leaving him unable to pay rent and other bills.
Hawkins has only been allowed to return to the UK three times in six years on compassionate grounds, for the weddings of his two adult daughters and his father’s funeral.
Tragically, his wife Giulietta has now divorced him, insisting she couldn’t wait for his return for ever, and he has only seen his sons Duncan and Rory, now aged 15 and 11, four times.
His problems began after agreeing to help launch a friend Miguel Angel Gomez’s import/export business in Madrid in 1997 thanks to his skills in computing.
“I had nothing to do with the running of the companies, just helped set them up and then gave him my power of attorney to run them,” he said.
But in 1998, growing suspicious of Gomez, he lost faith in the businesses and closed them both down.
It wasn’t until an entire decade later that he found himself one of 42 people accused in a complex tax fraud.
While given bail, he was unable to return to the UK, having to sign into court every day until the trial began in 2011.
He was eventually found guilty of playing a small role in the scam – albeit ‘by default’, as the judge ruled – and handed a six-month suspended sentence.
But because the case went to appeal he has still not been given his passport back.
He is now asking for help from the expat community on the Costa del Sol, in the hope they can help to repatriate him to live near his sons.
He has set up a crowdfunding site on Gofundme.com and estimates he needs up to €9,000 to survive this year, pay his rent and fight to get his passport back with court costs.
“Failing that I fear I will end up homeless and living on the streets like dozens of other unfortunate expats,” he said.
If you’d like to help Tim, view his Go Fund Me profile here