Revealing the nine biggest money laundering and fraud cases in Britain in 2019

A Top Gear mechanic and a pan-European criminal gang are among the criminals the HM Revenure & Customs is most proud of having caught in 2019.

HMRC has revealed its investigations in 2019 have led to more than 600 criminals being convicted for tax crimes.

However, the Fraud Investigation Service is seemingly more proud of some of these convictions than others. It has just released its top nine list of the biggest convictions of 2019.

The first convictions on the list were for the two fraudsters who tried to steal over £60m through a tax avoidance scheme which claimed to invest in HIV research and conservation. In February 2019, they were sentenced to serve 14 and a half years in total in prison.

“This was a calculated and cynical crime carried out by men who had no shame in using a worthy cause like HIV research to mask their criminality,” said Simon York, director of the Fraud Investigation Service, at the time. “In doing so, they attempted to steal millions of pounds from the taxpaying public – money that ultimately pays for vital public services like the NHS.”

The second series of convictions HMRC noted on the list was a gang based out of Berkshire that stole £34m in VAT and laundered £87m worth of proceeds from selling illicit alcohol through bank accounts in Britain, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Dubai and other countries. In September, they were jailed for more than 46 years in total.

Next on the list was a tax fraudster convicted in January. The man, who was part of a criminal gang attempting to evade excise duty and VAT by producing illegal tobacco products, had fled during his trial.

However, he was smoked out in his hideout just days before Christmas in 2018 and was promptly sentenced in January to eight years in prison for the £17m tax evaded. “This is another demonstration that HMRC will relentlessly pursue criminals who try to cheat and evade justice,” said Tony Capon, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service, at the time.

The fourth case mentioned was regarding the five people who distributed and sold about 4.8 million litres of illicit fuel through two of the convicts’ petrol station in Sussex. They were found to have mixed kerosene with diesel and sold it to unexpecting motorists. Kerosene is not approved for road use.

Another accomplice had supplied the kerosene and falsified 679 sales invoices to hide the identity of the petrol station owners. The conspirators faced between two and eight years behind bars per person.

A former Top Gear mechanic was jailed after helping a criminal father-son duo escape justice by going to Spain. They were awaiting sentences for a £1m VAT scam. The pair has since been extradited.

The mechanic had helped them by buying travel tickets and hired a van to drive the father to Spain. £2,900 had been deposited into his account during this time.

For his role in the duo’s escape, the mechanic was sentenced to 15 months in jail for perverting the course of justice.

In December 2019, five men were ordered to repay £20m stolen through a fake eco-investment scheme for wealthy investors. If they did not pay, they would have to serve a combined total of 39 years extra on top of the 43 years they would already serve as a whole.

“This was a carefully-planned and complex attack on the tax system and now the men have to pay up or spend even more time in prison, and still owe the money,” said Martin Lynagh, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service, at the time.

Next up was a man who claimed to be jobless and who were still able to enjoy golf and exotic holidays. He afforded his luxury lifestyle by smuggling 6,930kg of hand-rolling tobacco worth £1.2m in unpaid excise duty into the UK. In January 2019, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve three years and ten months in prison.

The eighth sentence was given to a charity treasurer who tried to steal more than £330,000 through a gift aid repayment fraud and spent the money on lavish cruise holidays. He was jailed for three years in June last year.

2019 also saw HMRC collaborate with Interpol to take apart a pan-European crime gang involved in cigarette trafficking, drug smuggling and money laundering. Three men in the gang was jailed for a total of 12 year and nine months in November.

Commenting on these nine cases, York said, “The majority of people pay their taxes but there remains a hard core who have zero interest in playing by the rules.

“These prosecutions clearly show that we’ll relentlessly pursue those criminals who would try and cheat honest taxpayers by stealing money destined for vital public services.

“It means we’re increasingly taking on ever more complex frauds and well-resourced opponents, including tackling organised criminals who would otherwise undermine our economy and harm our communities.”

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