HACKERS defaced former Runcorn performer Gary Barlow’s homepage and Twitter feed with vicious abuse after HMRC ruled the singer-songwriter and two former bandmates could be ordered to repay millions over a tax evasion scheme.
Mr Barlow, who set out on the road to stardom with shows at the Halton Royal British Legion on Main Street, was among hundreds who pumped cash into the ‘Icebreaker’ scheme.
On Monday, the former Frodsham High pupil's website appeared with an obscene and homophobic message that appeared to reference Mr Barlow’s tragic experience of having a stillborn child.
The same sentence was on his Twitter feed.
Hackers had also removed the main picture from his homepage, thus leaving a background image of him at his desk with his head in his hands and the vicious message.
It follows the outcome of an HMRC tribunal.
The BBC reported that the hearing found Mr Barlow and hundreds of others used an investment scheme to ‘purportedly support the music industry’, but for which the real purpose was tax avoidance.
HM Revenue And Customs (HMRC) reported that the Icebreaker Partnerships made losses of £336m.
This amount included £25m in relation to its ‘Larkdale’ scheme to which three Take That members including Barlow and their manager were attached.
The system meant they received tax relief that they would not have received otherwise.
Judge Colin Bishopp ruled at an HM Revenue and Customs tribunal that the system was a way to avoid paying the public purse.
The BBC reported that authorities took Mr Barlow along with Howard Duncan and Mark Owen to court after The Times broke the story in 2012.
The project has also led to some to call for the Government to quash his OBE.
In his summing up Judge Bishopp said: “The underlying, and fundamental, conclusion we have reached is that the Icebreaker scheme is, and was known and understood by all concerned to be, a tax avoidance scheme.
“The aim was to secure sideways relief for the members, and to inflate the scale of the relief by unnecessary borrowing, coupled with the illusion that the borrowed money was available for use in the exploitation of intellectual property rights by the device of the purported payment of a large production fee offset by the equally purported payment of a fee for a share of the resulting revenue.
“In our judgement the schemes substantially failed in their purpose.
“We accept, nevertheless, that each of the appellant partnerships was carrying on the trade of the exploitation of intellectual property rights.”