A farmer jailed for more than half a million pounds worth of tax fraud may only have to pay back £4,000, a court has heard.
Ella Thom was locked up last year for committing £650,000 worth of fraud, leaving Aberdeenshire Council to care for her cattle while she was behind bars.
The authority has already been granted a court order to sell 49 of her beasts, but is now seeking permission to kill the remaining 100 after claims they had no commercial value.
Earlier last month Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard it has already cost the council around £100,000 to provide food and additional care for the herd which cannot be removed from the farm Thom rents on the Learney Estate, near Torphins.
And yesterday, during a proceeds of crime hearing, the court heard Thom may only have to pay out £4,000 in total as she has very few assets left of any worth.
The court heard the Crown had previously issued a confiscation order requesting that Thom pay at least £150,000 of the illicit cash back, however yesterday fiscal depute Felicity Merson said it had been decided they would reduce this amount substantially to only £8,500.
Representing the cattle farmer, solicitor George Mathers said his client would only be able to agree to just under half of the sum they were asking.
He told the court that out of the money she had fraudulently obtained there were only three things she had purchased which still had any value to them.
Mr Mathers said these were two tractors and one cow which in total are valued at around £4,000.
This offer was not accepted by the Crown and another hearing date has been set to potentially agree on an amended sum.
In December, Thom was sentenced to 27 months in prison for defrauding HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) out of £657,932.01 over more than six years.
The court had heard the 50-year-old carried out the theft by “declaring that the input tax she paid was greater than the output tax”.
She attempted to justify the VAT repayments she claimed by inflating the cost of machinery, fertilisers and business charges.
At the time of sentence her solicitor urged the sheriff to allow her to keep her liberty as she said a man had “pressurised” her client into committing the crimes.
Solicitor Lynn Bentley said her client had been asked repeatedly to make the excessive claims and hand the money over to the man, who was not named in court.
Ms Bentley said that when the Crown and HMRC were investigating the fraud, they found a number of Thom’s cheques for “large sums of money” had been made out to the individual.