A Worcestershire farmer who fled to Zimbabwe to avoid being prosecuted for a £1.4 million VAT fraud has been jailed for three years and four months.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators discovered that Paul Hussell had submitted 41 fraudulent VAT repayment claims for April 2008 to August 2011 in relation to his father’s tenanted farm. He used money from the fraud to buy himself an Aston Martin DB9 and a six-berth Regal motor cruiser – purchases he kept secret from his wife.
Hussell, 50, was arrested in November 2011, but absconded in February 2012 to avoid further questioning.
Hussell returned to the UK from Zimbabwe in late 2012 and, after a period of ill-health, was re-arrested and charged in November 2013. HMRC’s arresting officers found him hiding in the bathroom of his rented farm cottage.
Colin Spinks, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:
“Justice has finally caught up with Paul Hussell who fled the UK to avoid facing up to his crimes. In the end, after a lengthy investigation by our officers, he pleaded guilty to this sizeable VAT fraud and is now paying the price for his criminal activities.
“If you know of anyone who is committing VAT fraud, you can report them by calling the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Hussell tried to legitimise his VAT claims by producing false invoices, which he hid under a wardrobe at his home. The faked paperwork was uncovered by HMRC investigators during a house search.
Paul Hussell pleaded guilty at Worcester Crown Court on 17 July 2014 and was sentenced at the same court today.
Upon sentencing Hussell, Recorder G H Cliff, said:
"Mr Hussell had deliberately and relentlessly over a period of time falsified documents in order to put HMRC off the scent whilst evading £1.4 million in VAT."
The fraud was discovered after a VAT officer identified irregularities on one of the monthly VAT returns and referred the case for criminal investigation.
HMRC will seek to recover proceeds of his crimes.
Notes for editors
1. Paul David Hussell (DOB 01/07/1964) of Kemerton, near Tewkesbury, Worcestershire.
2. Hussell was charged on 28 November 2013 with cheating the public revenue subject to common law by: Submitting false VAT returns showing inflated values for purchases and the VAT reclaimed thereon; Causing or permitting false purchase invoices to be created that included inflated charges for VAT; Making VAT reclaims in sums to which he was not entitled. 3. Follow HMRC’s Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice 4. Photographs are available at HMRC’s Flick channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk
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.