One of the UK’s most wanted tax fugitives, who escaped to Ireland 12 years ago, is finally behind bars for committing a £5 million tax fraud.
Former construction company boss, Thomas O’Connor, 52, was convicted of cheating the public revenue but fled before he was jailed for four-and-a-half years, after a HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation.
O’Connor was tracked down in Ireland by specialist HMRC officers, but then launched a seven-year legal battle in 2011 to try and block his extradition.
He has now been returned to the UK to begin his jail term and appeared in court on Friday (November 2) where his sentence was confirmed.
Gary Forbes, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“We are delighted to be giving O’Connor the birthday present he deserves – a prison cell. He resorted to a series of desperate legal claims in a bid to cheat justice but he’s finally where he belongs.
“O’Connor was behind a systematic attack on the public purse. He and his criminal partners stole the equivalent of the starting salary of 216 police officers. The stolen money paid for an off-the-books workforce and funded lifestyles they couldn’t legitimately afford.
“We will relentlessly pursue fugitives who think they can dodge UK justice. Our message to others like O’Connor is very simple. We will keep pursuing you, no matter how long it takes.”
O’Connor, who was living in London during his trial in 2006, was convicted of a large scale subcontractor fraud between September 2002 and December 2004 along with two others.
The trio, who were directors of construction industry firms, produced bogus invoices to make false returns through the Construction Industry Scheme.
O’Connor was convicted after a six-week trial and was bailed following conviction. But he failed to attend sentencing and a warrant for his arrest was issued in December 2006.
He was tracked down in Ireland in June 2011 and arrested by Irish police. He appealed his case through the Irish court system and ultimately to the European Court of Justice but his case was dismissed.
HMRC secured a confiscation order against O’Connor in 2007 to make him repay the stolen money. He was originally ordered to repay £4.2 million, but this has risen to £7.9 million with interest.
If he does not pay the order, he will spend another five years in prison and still owe the money.
O’Connor is the latest in a string of tax fugitives caught and returned to face UK justice in the last two years, including Asad Chohan, Jamie and Brian Colwell, Mariusz Chorazy, Lieb Berger, Antonio De Sousa, Mbarak Gowie, Wayne Hardy, and Geoffrey Johnson.
Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC on 0800 788 887, or online at https://www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business
Notes for Editors
1. Thomas Joseph O’Connor (02/11/1966) of The Walk, Roscommon, Ireland, formerly of London, appeared at Blackfriars Crown Court on November 2, 2018, where his sentence was confirmed.
2. O’Connor was jailed for four-and-a-half years. He has also been handed a two month consecutive sentence for absconding. He owes £7.9 million and will face a further five years behind bars if he does not pay back the money.
3. O’Connor was convicted in 2006 of Conspiracy to Cheat the Public Revenue contrary to section 1 (1) of the Criminal Law Act (1977) and Section 6 (2) of the Bail Act (1976).
4. His confiscation order currently stands at £7.9 million, which has increased due to interest on the original order of £4.2 million. His debt increases by more than £960 every single day.
5. Reference for maximum starting salary of a West Midlands police officer at £23,124. Source:https://wmp.referrals.selectminds.com/default1180_draft/page/police-officer-responsibilities-pay-and-training-28
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.