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Beating the tax cheats – HMRC’s criminal case highlights of 2016

HM Revenue and Customs has revealed its top ten most significant fraud and organised crime cases of the last year

In the ongoing fight against tax evasion, HMRC took a range of tax fraudsters through the courts in 2016 for prosecution. HMRC’s criminal investigations have led to 679 individuals being convicted for their part in tax crimes, with sentences for 2016 totalling more than 730 years.

Many of the cases won by HMRC in 2016 involved company directors, accountants and organised criminals. These individuals were involved in a wide range of criminal activity including excise smuggling, hiding assets from HMRC in offshore accounts, and frauds disguised as tax avoidance schemes.

These ten most significant cases each came with large prison sentences. They include:

  • a group of film producers, accountants, financial advisers and investment bankers jailed for a total of 36 years for their part in a £2.2 million film tax scheme fraud

  • three men jailed for a total of 27 years for a film fraud disguised as a tax avoidance scheme, which was intended to defraud taxpayers of £100 million

  • three men – including an accountant and a construction firm boss jailed for a total of 19 years, after stealing £6.9 million in a payroll fraud to fund lavish lifestyles

  • a criminal gang from the South East jailed for a total of 19 years, after getting caught red-handed with bundles of ‘dirty’ cash, as part of £15 million made from selling alcohol illegally

  • two charity con-men, who faked charitable donations to fraudulently claim more than £5 million in Gift Aid repayments, were jailed for a combined total of 19 years

  • a gang of five men from the north of England, who used free public Wi-Fi to try to hide their £10 million cigarette smuggling ring, were jailed for a total of 16 and a half years

  • a criminal gang, including a father and son, caught running a fuel fraud, evading more than £900,000 in duty and taxes by running an illegal filling station in the West Midlands, jailed for a combined total of more than nine and half years

  • a London couple who masterminded a nationwide counterfeit tobacco production racket capable of robbing the taxpayer of £1 million a week, were jailed for a total of eight years

  • a cheating accountant who advised the media industry, was jailed for five years for a £6 million tax fraud

  • four fraudsters from Forfar, Stoke-on-Trent and Spain, ordered to repay more than £111 million in criminal profits. The men, who were part of an 18-strong criminal gang involved in a mobile phone VAT fraud, were sentenced between 2012 and 2014 to a total of 135 years in prison.

Simon York, Director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said:

Day in, day out, HMRC is coming down hard on tax cheats. As these cases show, we’ll tackle anyone committing tax fraud, regardless of how well resourced, well advised, or well organised. These ten prosecutions are among the most significant cases we’ve handled this year, and they reflect the wide range of work carried out by HMRC.

Tax evasion isn’t a victimless crime: it is stealing money from our vital public services and it undermines honest traders. We’re working hard to take the profit out of organised crime, create a level playing field for honest businesses, and use the full range of our powers and capability to ensure that no one is beyond our reach.

HMRC uses the full range of both criminal and civil powers to investigate tax cheats, and is successful in more than 90% of the prosecutions undertaken. However, work doesn’t stop there – HMRC always looks to recover the proceeds from any crime committed.

Notes for editors

  • If you know of anyone committing tax fraud, call our 24-hour hotline on 0800 59 5000 and help us stamp it out.
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