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Jail for online trader

Press Release   •   Sep 02, 2014 15:17 BST

John Woolfenden, 52, from Radcliffe, traded on Play.com, Playtrade and on eBay as ‘Globalworldentertainments’, selling DVDs, CDs and games but never declared his self-employed status or sales for tax purposes. The fraud, including unpaid taxes, interest and money laundering totalling £299,753.17, was discovered as part of the HMRC’s e-Marketplaces campaign to tackle undeclared tax and income from online trading.

When HMRC officers raided his home address on 15 May 2013 they found all the signs of a busy online trader: there were huge stocks of DVDs, CDs and games and even the shower was stacked to the ceiling with boxes.

Sandra Smith, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“Woolfenden did not declare his true income on his Self Assessment tax returns; he did not register for VAT, or pay VAT owed for his commercial trading online. He stole a substantial sum of money purely to line his own pockets.

“HMRC will pursue every avenue to ensure evaded taxes are restored to the taxpayer and public finances.”

During the fraud Woolfenden had more than 520,000 listings on eBay. HMRC forensic accountants also discovered that payments of nearly £1.4 million had passed through his online bank accounts over a six-year period. Woolfenden routed other payments through an American bank account in an attempt to disguise his income and launder his profits. He made no mention of his online trading income on his Self Assessment tax returns and, when challenged by HMRC for details of the trade, he ignored the requests and did not respond to letters. Investigations discovered that advertising for Globalworldentertainments said the business has been trading for 20 years.

The HMRC e-Marketplaces campaign closed in September 2012. HMRC is continuing to use the data gathered during the campaign to identify people who should have come forward but chose not to. 

Notes for Editors

1.  At Bolton Crown Court today, 1 September 2014, John Eric Woolfenden, DOB 13/10/62, of Grosvenor Street, Radcliffe, Manchester, was sentenced to two years jail.

2.  On the 23 June 2014, he pleaded to guilty three charges:

-  Between 10/02/09 and 29/12/09 he concealed, disguised, converted, transferred or removed criminal property, namely monies from unpaid tax, by means of bank and cheque transfers contrary to sections 327(1) and 334 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

-  Between 16/02/06 and 31/03/13 he failed to declare monies from online trading, with intent to prejudice or defraud HMRC contrary to Common Law.

-  Between 16/02/06 and 31/03/13 he failed to register and account for VAT, with intent to prejudice or defraud HMRC contrary to Common Law.

3.  The fraud included: unpaid VAT of £161,687.88, Income Tax and interest of £17,585.24 and money laundering of £120,480.05.

4.  Since 2007, HMRC campaigns have collected over £596 million in tax, and over £338 million from follow-up activity. Campaigns launched so far have targeted offshore investments, medical professionals, plumbers, VAT defaulters, coaches and tutors, electricians, online traders, landlords and health professionals. A number of criminal investigations are underway and eight people have been convicted of cheating the public revenue, leading to the recovery of £593,000.

5.  HMRC’s e-Marketplaces campaign was a chance for those who use electronic marketplace websites to buy and sell goods as a trade or business, but who had not paid what they owe, to bring their tax affairs up to date on the best possible terms. The voluntary disclosure opportunity offered as part of the e-marketplaces campaign closed in September 2012.

6.  HMRC’s Flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk

7.  Follow HMRC’s Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice


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.