HMRC has revealed some of the more extreme cases of tax crime that it tackled last year. It makes for interesting reading.
Fraud investigations led to 671 people being convicted over the past 12 months. In addition, HMRC has charged another 919 people and taken on 746 criminal investigations.
This year’s top 10 prosecutions:
- One of the UK’s most wanted tax fugitives, who spent more than 11 years on the run and owes more than £53m, ended up in jail after he was caught in Canada.
- Five fraudsters falsely claimed £13m in tax repayments and facilitated around 900 bogus visa applications, were sentenced to a total of more than 31 years in jail.
- An eight-strong tobacco smuggling gang that brought more than 2 million illegal cigarettes into the north-east were jailed for a total of more than 26 years.
- A tax consultant, who fled the UK before he could be arrested for masterminding a conspiracy to steal £6.9m from construction workers’ pay packets, is finally in prison. David Michael Hughes travelled to Chile, Dubai and Cyprus to evade justice but was eventually arrested at Heathrow airport after arriving from Istanbul.
- Father and son tax fugitives are behind bars after being captured in Spain and extradited to the UK. The £1m VAT fraudster son tried to avoid jail by fleeing to France in a light aircraft, while his accomplice father escaped by ferry, before they both headed to Spain.
- A company boss who was jailed for trafficking fighter jet parts to Iran in violation of weapons of mass destruction controls. Alexander George shipped military items, including Russian MiG and US F4 Phantom parts, to Iran through various companies and countries.
- The manager of a well-known male stripping troupe, who was sentenced in her absence for tax and benefit fraud is now behind bars after more than a year on the run.
- A church leader from Luton who lied about charity donations to fraudulently claim £150,000 Gift Aid repayments, was jailed for four years.
- A businessman who masterminded a £9.8m VAT fraud to fund his lifestyle of flash cars and a luxury Spanish home, was jailed for nine years. Jason Butler used money from the fraud to fund his collection of supercars, including a Ferrari Fiorano FI, a Ferrari 360, a Mercedes SL350 and a Lamborghini Murcielago. He also ‘owned’ a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, a speedboat, a home in Marbella and 96 properties in Leeds
- A company director who funded his hobby, racing high-powered sports cars in races across Europe, through a £450,000 tax scam. Simon Atkinson was already under investigation by HMRC for anti-money laundering offences when officers unearthed the six-figure tax fraud, which he used to finance his passion for racing Lamborghinis in competitive motor tournaments
The official press release says: “HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service continues to bring in around £5 billion a year through civil and criminal investigations.”
Mel Stride, Treasury financial secretary, says: HMRC’s investigative teams have been working hard to crack down on tax crimes in the UK, and hold those who would cheat the public revenue to account. The range of cases in this year’s list demonstrates how HMRC will always tackle fraud and can prosecute anyone who steals from the public or breaks the rules – from smugglers to potential arms dealers.
Simon York, director of the fraud investigation service, says:As these cases show, HMRC can and will tackle the most serious tax crime and breaches of sanctions whether committed by organised criminals, professional advisers or wealthy individuals.
We remain resolute and relentless in our determination to level the playing field and bring tax criminals to justice on behalf of the majority of citizens who pay their tax to fund vital public services.
HMRC uses the full range of both criminal and civil powers to investigate tax cheats and continues to be successful in around 90 per cent of criminal cases it brings to trial. However, work doesn’t stop there – HMRC always looks to recover the proceeds from any crime committed to secure the funds for the public purse.