A MAYOR linked to a company implicated in a large scale VAT fraud which later donated £15,000 to him has claimed allegations of wrongdoing against him are "utter rubbish".

Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley Mayor, accepted the donation from Askaris Information Technology Limited in December 2019.

Last year, Askaris lost an appeal against a decision by HMRC to deny the firm credit for input tax on the ground that Askaris knew or should have known that its transactions were connected with the fraudulent evasion of VAT, totalling £809,610.02.

Mr Houchen was mentioned by name twice in the judgement, which says that prior to becoming mayor, he was director of law firm RU Licit, which at one stage advised Askaris' appeal.

Responding, Mr Houchen said: “The whole thing is utter rubbish.

“This nonsense was first concocted by the Labour Party because they have nothing positive to offer about anything so have reverted to trying to pull others down, which is exactly what they’ve done to Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool for the last 30 years.

“The truth of the matter is that I was introduced to a company in 2015 who were looking for legal support – a whole two years after an issue occurred between that company and HMRC. I didn’t provide any legal advice but introduced them to a barrister who could advise them.

“I do not have, nor have I ever had, any involvement with that company.

“The whole thing is bizarre. It’s like trying to blame Neil Warnock for Middlesbrough being relegated back in 2009.”