A high-flying businessman, who masterminded a sophisticated £9.8 million international VAT fraud to fund his lavish lifestyle of flash cars and a luxury Spanish home, has been jailed for nine years.
Jason Butler, 46, formerly of Leeds, created hundreds of false invoices to steal millions of pounds in VAT and tried to hide the scam in a complex trading chain involving companies in the UK, Gibraltar, Spain and the US, an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed.
Butler, who now lives in Spain, told HMRC he bought almost £60 million worth of personal data, but checks revealed this was a lie. In reality he was forging purchase invoices to falsely reclaim VAT and trading very cheap raw data through a complex international supply chain in a bid to hide his crimes.
Butler, who previously ran a number of companies in Yorkshire which were part of Jump Group Ltd, used money from the fraud to fund a vast portfolio of properties in Leeds, a luxury Spanish home, a collection of sports cars and a speedboat.
Eden Noblett, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC said:
“Butler thought he was clever and his scam too sophisticated to be uncovered. But, he was not as clever as he believed.
“This was a complex fraud involving offshore companies and moving money internationally. This case should serve as a warning to anyone considering stealing taxpayers' money. No matter how clever and sophisticated you think your fraud is, we will catch you.
“Tax fraud takes money away from the vital public services we all use. Butler stole enough money to pay for more than 500 new NHS nurses. We will not allow anyone to steal funding from our schools and hospitals. Anyone with information about tax fraud should report it to HMRC online or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Butler controlled a company called Multi Level Media (MLM), based at Britannia House in Leeds. He said he bought and sold valuable Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) customer data from nine UK companies via an international agency which he also controlled, between November 2011 and January 2015.
However, checks with the companies revealed that no trade ever took place and Butler had created hundreds of phoney invoices.
Instead he was buying and selling cheap raw data to a series of firms in the UK, who then sold it to a respectable data company in Gibraltar. The data was sold by them to a company in the US, which was also controlled by Butler.
Each step of the transaction chain was arranged and controlled by Butler.
He created this series of transactions to try and hide his fraud by involving several companies, some of which had an established tax history with HMRC.
On paper it appeared the fraudster had paid substantial amounts of VAT. But the purchases were fake and backed up by forged invoices, which he used to falsely reclaim £9,875,806 in VAT.
Butler used money from the fraud to fund his collection of supercars including: Ferrari Fiorano FI, Ferrari 360, Mercedes SL350, and a Lamborghini Murcielago.
He also owned a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, speedboat, a luxurious home in Marbella and 96 properties in Leeds.
He was arrested by police at Manchester International Airport when he arrived into the UK from Malaga on 18 January 2015.
On 22 March 2018, Butler was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of VAT fraud. He was sentenced to nine years in prison at the same court today, 26 March 2018, by His Honour Judge Jameson QC.
Proceedings are now underway to recover the stolen money.
Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at https://www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business.
Notes to Editors
- Jason Butler, 21/01/1972, of Marbella, Malaga, Spain, formerly of Leeds, stole £9.8 million in VAT and was sentenced to nine years in prison at Leeds Crown Court on 26 March 2018.
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Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.
HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.