Five men from London, Berkshire and Gloucester have been jailed this week for a total of 37½ years after failing to pay £140 million tax in a ‘missing trader’ VAT fraud. The investigation began in October 2005 and resulted in a series of court cases that started last December.
Four of the men each set up their own limited company, most of which only traded for a few weeks, while the fifth dealt with administration. They imported mobile phones and computer chips VAT-free from other EU countries and then sold them within the UK inclusive of VAT. Instead of paying the VAT to HM Revenue & Customs, the money was apparently ‘laundered’ through overseas operations. Each gang member was said to have been paid a maximum of £30,000 for their involvement in the fraud.
Martin Brown, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HM Revenue & Customs, said “The motivation of these men was pure greed. Their criminal activity blatantly deprived us all of millions of pounds for the nation's public services. Today’s sentences should be a lesson to anyone considering this type of crime. We are committed to pursue and prosecute those involved in this type of crime and reclaim any profits made. We urge anyone with information about this sort of criminal activity, to call the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000 or email email@example.com and help us stamp it out.”
HMRC is currently seeking to confiscate assets involved with the case.