Geoffrey Winston Johnson, 74, originally from Forfar, Angus, played a leading role in an 18-strong crime gang involved in a complex VAT fraud. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison in his absence and both he and his son were ordered to repay £109m worth of criminal proceeds.
Johnson was apprehended on Friday 7 July in Dubai after using a fake passport to travel from Kenya, where he had been lying low. As soon as his true identity was uncovered, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) moved quickly and assisted the Dubai authorities to secure his return to the UK to face justice.
Johnson was returned to the UK in the early hours of this morning (Thursday 13 July) and appeared at Kingston Crown Court this afternoon. He was sentenced today for an additional six months for not attending his original trial and faces a total of 24 years and six months in prison.
Simon York, Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“We’ve been pursuing Johnson from the day he decided to flee the UK. Despite him taking audacious measures to evade capture, we tracked him across the globe and he is now back to begin a long spell in prison. This sophisticated fraud was outright theft of money intended for important public services and it is right that he now pays the price for that crime.
“Getting him back to face justice is testament to the hard work and professionalism of HMRC investigators, who uncovered and investigated his crime and successfully tracked him down with the help of the Dubai authorities.
“Johnson is the sixth tax fugitive we have recovered from overseas this year alone. HMRC will always relentlessly pursue tax criminals and we are determined to ensure nobody is beyond our reach.”
The gang, based in Cheshire, East Sussex, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, North Wales, Staffordshire, Scotland and Spain, set up a number of businesses claiming to be legitimately importing and selling mobile phones. They hid their fraud behind a complex web of transactions but HMRC investigators discovered it was all an elaborate VAT repayment fraud.
Despite the gang going to great lengths to hide their criminal profits, HMRC investigators uncovered a series of complex transactions which they used to launder stolen money through bank accounts in the UK and further afield, including through Andorra, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Portugal and the US. Geoffrey Johnson was instrumental in laundering the criminal proceeds of the fraud.
Rather than stand trial, Johnson along with his son Gareth, became fugitives and fled the UK. They were sentenced to ten years in jail in their absence in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
In March 2016, they received a confiscation order for over £109 million. As they didn’t pay this, they received an additional prison sentence of 14 years which was added to their original sentences.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Gareth Johnson should contact our hotline on 0800 788 887.
Johnson’s return is the latest in a spate of fugitives being caught and returned to face justice in the UK, including Lieb Berger, Wayne Hardy and Mbrak Gowie.