The appeal court has overturned a Deemster’s ruling which halted proceedings in a long-running tax fraud inquiry.

Criminal proceedings against Paul Bell were declared null and void earlier this year after the high court ruled the summons issued against him was invalid.

Mr Bell was investigated as part of ‘Operation Braid’, a complex and long-running investigation into tax fraud, money laundering, perjury and Bankruptcy Code offences.

He had been declared bankrupt in July 2000 but had paid off debts of about £733,000 to the income tax division in order to have his bankruptcy discharged.

But the prosecution alleged that he failed to disclose assets of £2.85m held in the island and that his wife Sarah Louise Bell and advocate John Wright had conspired to commit perjury by giving false affidavit evidence that his debts had been paid by his wife.

In a judgment in May Deemster Andrew Corlett nullified the criminal proceedings instigated against all three, declaring the off-island barrister who issued the summons against them was not authorised to do so.

But now that barrister Timothy Green KC has won an appeal against the Deemster Corlett’s judgment, potentially paving the way for criminal proceedings to resume.

Mr Green had been authorised by the then Chief Minister Allan Bell in November 2014 to act in the case as the acting Attorney General, the late John Quinn had a conflict of interest. Walter Wannenburgh, appointed Solicitor General in 2015 and then Attorney General in 2022, was similarly conflicted.

The Bells argued that the summons issued against them last year was invalid as Mr Green’s authority had lapsed.

Deemster Cook, sitting as a Deputy High Bailiff, ruled in November that the criminal proceedings instigated by Mr Green were valid.

But this ruling was challenged in the Bells’ doleance claims and Deemster Corlett ruled in their favour.

He quashed the Deputy High Bailiff’s ruling and said the court had erred in law in coming to the decision that Mr Green KC was authorised to institute these criminal proceedings.

But the appeal court allowed one of two grounds of Mr Green’s appeal.

It ruled that the statutory direction that gave Mr Green power to exercise all the Attorney General’s functions concerning Operation Braid remained in force and effective when the summonses were issued.

The appeal judge stated: ‘Although a direction made under section 20 can lapse by operation of law when the functions of the Attorney General can be exercised by the officer upon whom those functions are conferred, those functions could not be exercised by the officer upon whom those functions had been conferred from 2014 to 2022.’