Jon Asgeir Johannesson, the former chief executive of now defunct Icelandic investment firm Baugur, which had stakes in large retailers including House of Fraser, has filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights to try to overturn a tax evasion conviction.

Johannesson built Baugur into an empire that included Hamleys, House of Fraser and Karen Millen. Baugur eventually collapsed in 2009, threatening the future of the retailers that it owned.

In February Johannesson was fined for tax evasion and given a one-year suspended jail term.

He has now claimed the criminal trial was illegal because he had already been fined by the Icelandic tax authorities for the same offences, according to The Sunday Times.

The European Court has conducted a preliminary examination of his claim and has demanded a response from the Icelandic Government by September 26. If the Court of Human Rights upholds his complaint the conviction would be quashed.

The 45-year-old, who claims to have lost a £1bn fortune, says he is the victim of a witch-hunt by Icelandic prosecutors.  

Johannesson’s offices were first raided by tax authorities in 2002. At the time he was accused of failing to report large payments, avoiding tax on sale shares and not declaring benefits such as life assurance.

In 2008, a criminal investigation was launched and charges were initially rejected by the Reykjavik district court in 2010 because they used the same evidence as the tax authorities. Prosecutors appealed, leading to his conviction earlier this year.