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Horse sense evades jailed tax fraudster

Press Release   •   Feb 16, 2016 19:26 GMT

A Widnes man who pretended to trade in equine medicine and claimed to have a £25 million bank balance, has been jailed after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) exposed his £2 million VAT fraud.

Anthony Knowles, 57, of Clapgate Crescent, submitted several suspicious VAT repayment claims to HMRC in 2013 prompting an investigation.

During routine checks on Knowles’ VAT repayment claims, HMRC uncovered a myriad of false documents and lies. The investigation revealed that he had provided officers with false paperwork, including bank statements, in a bid to convince them that his multi-million pound business was booming – despite it being run from his two bedroom council house.

Knowles also falsely claimed that his business was being financially supported by a sheik – who HMRC was never able to trace.

Sandra Smith, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“In this case, Knowles provided dozens of fake documents to convince HMRC he was genuinely trading as a multi-million-pound empire. Throughout the investigation Knowles made a number of outlandish claims to prove he was legitimate – but our officers saw through his scam.

“Knowles was attempting to steal a substantial sum of money from British taxpayers and his abuse of the VAT repayment system was ambitious to say the least. HMRC will now begin action to recover public finances stolen in this case under Proceeds of Crime legislation.”

After Knowles was interviewed by HMRC officers, in September 2013 his home was searched where HMRC investigator’s discovered forged bank statements – which were blank and ready for use, fake supplier invoices, digital copies of signatures to create false delivery notes and evidence of luxury spending. A look into his financial affairs found he had attempted to buy a Cheshire mansion and farm, and received quotes for building a huge extension.

Knowles was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday 15 February.

Notes for editors

1.Anthony Michael Knowles, DOB 05/06/58, of Clapgate Crescent, Widnes, Cheshire was sentenced to four years imprisonment yesterday at Liverpool Crown Court. On 27 November 2015, Knowles pleaded guilty to being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of Value Added Tax contrary to Section 72(1) of the Value Added Tax Act 1994.

2.Knowles registered three companies trading from his home address:

-Eques Nobilis Limited - main business activity described as the manufacture of advanced equestrian medical supplies and the provision of specialist equine services. Later Knowles said this was the research part of his business empire;

-H2 Healthcare Limited to market his equine products;

-Zone 37 Limited to sell horse related items over the internet.

3.Knowles made two suspicious VAT repayment claims in 2013 that started the HMRC investigation:

-in January 2013, Eques Nobilis Ltd claimed a £191,285 VAT repayment (HMRC initially repaid £142,486);

-In April 2013, the Eques Nobilis group of companies claimed for £1,804,917 (HMRC withheld this VAT repayment).

4.Follow HMRC Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice.

5.HMRC's Flickr channel: http://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.