A GANG of 20 from Staffordshire, Manchester and the West Midlands, including one from Redditch and one from Bromsgrove, has been jailed for almost 90 years for stealing more than £8 million in a sophisticated tax fraud.
The 17 men and three women were arrested by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers during an investigation that revealed tax offences and money laundering linked to the construction industry over a two-year period.
Investigators uncovered a large and complex web of illegal activity involving more than 100 businesses. Subcontractors were employed ‘off-record’ and the gang members pocketed Income Tax and National Insurance contributions due to be paid to HMRC. Fake invoices, supposedly for providing labour, had also been created to claim VAT refunds to which the gang were not entitled.
HMRC investigators carried out searches at more than 40 residential and business premises across the UK in September 2009, They seized paperwork, computers, class A drugs and almost £170,000 in cash from 11 business properties in the West Midlands and Manchester. Smaller quantities of US dollars and Euros were also discovered.
All defendants have now been sentenced following three separate trials at Birmingham Crown Court, the last finishing on Wednesday, July 30, and reporting restrictions have been been removed.
Colin Booker, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: "Today’s final sentencing brings to an end a six-year investigation, centred on a highly organised and complex fraud, undertaken by a group of individuals who cared for nothing but their own financial gain.
“HMRC is investing more time and resources than ever into identifying fraud. Our work does not stop at sentencing, but at depriving those involved of the proceeds of their crimes. Confiscation action will follow, as we attempt to recoup some of the £8 million the gang so shamelessly stole from the taxpayer."
Simon Clifford Davies, aged 46, of Loxley Close, Church Hill, Redditch, was found guilty of VAT fraud and conspiracy to launder money. He was jailed for four years following a trial in November 2013 at Birmingham Crown Court and sentenced on December 18, 2013.
Neil Hughes, aged 48, of Linthurst Newtown, Blackwell, Bromsgrove, pleaded guilty to cheating the revenue and was jailed for four years and three months on January 17, 2014.
Officers seized £95,000 cash from nine business properties in the West Midlands, £37,000 from addresses in Bristol and £38,400 from two business sites in Manchester, along with smaller quantities of US dollars and Euros.