In the ongoing fight against tax evasion, HMRC took a broad range of tax cheats and fraudsters through the courts for prosecution, including millionaires, those with offshore accounts, a would-be spy, accountants, data thieves and organised criminal gangs.
HMRC’s fraud investigations have led to 762 individuals being convicted in 2017 for their part in tax crimes, resulting in sentences totalling more than 1,000 years. In addition, HMRC has charged suspects in over 1,000 new cases of tax fraud.
Convictions were secured for pocketing employees’ income tax contributions, failing to declare income and offering fake tax breaks to wealthy investors, as well as tax credits and fuel fraud.
These ten most significant cases each came with large prison sentences. They include:
Six men from the South East jailed for a total of 45 years after persuading wealthy individuals to invest in largely fake environmental projects. A ten year investigation revealed the scheme was nothing more than a £108m fraud, using a complex series of offshore banking and paper transactions.
A pair of London fraudsters who evaded £46.5 million in tax by smuggling wine into the UK sentenced to a total of 17 and a half years in prison. They laundered the proceeds of the fraud using a string of bank accounts.
A millionaire businessman from Kent who failed to file a single return or pay £1.3m in tax because he wasn’t a ‘paperwork person’, jailed for four years.
A gang of international alcohol smugglers jailed for a total of 19 years after smuggling beer into the UK and evading £3.8 million in duty and VAT.
A Dubai-based British businessman, who financed a major cigarette smuggling gang, stripped of prime Thames-side land to pay back £4.5 million.
Nine people, including the owner of a Belfast based fuel supply company, sentenced for laundering, concealing and distributing about 4.5 million litres of red diesel worth £2.6 million in lost duty and taxes.
A Kings Lynn man who told his family and friends he was a spy travelling abroad when in reality he was visiting holiday homes bought with the proceeds of a £1.6 million VAT fraud.
The evasion of £17 million in lost excise duty and VAT from the manufacture of illegal tobacco products that cost three men a total of 16 years in jail sentences.
A former Ascot man who hijacked details of an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands to commit a £640,000 fraud, jailed for three years and seven months.
A wannabe TV presenter from south Wales who was part of a gang of four involved in a £400,000 VAT fraud, jailed for a total of seven years.
Simon York, Director of HMRCs Fraud Investigation Service, said:
“Tax evasion is rightly seen as unacceptable – it is stealing money from the public services we all rely on and undermines honest business people. But as these cases show, HMRC continues to successfully defeat a wide range of tax crime and bring the culprits to justice.
“Throughout 2017 our officers have worked hard to take the profit out of organised crime, create a level playing field for businesses, and use the full range of our powers and capability to ensure that no one is beyond our reach. 2018 will see many hundreds more tax fraudsters tried for criminal offences, as HMRC continues to work on behalf of the honest majority to ensure tax crime doesn’t pay.”
HMRC uses the full range of both criminal and civil powers to investigate tax cheats, and is successful in more than 93% of the prosecutions undertaken. 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.