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Busted! HMRC reveals biggest criminal cases of year 2019

Press release   •   Jan 02, 2020 14:16 GMT

The smashing of international criminal gangs, large money laundering seizures and fake investment schemes all feature in HM Revenue and Customs' top criminal cases of 2019.

This year’s list once again demonstrates HMRC’s relentless pursuit of tax criminals and shows the lengths some individuals will go to steal money destined to support important public services.

HMRC’s fraud investigations have led to more than 600 individuals being convicted for their part in tax crimes and commenced new criminal investigations into over 610 individuals during the last 12 months.

This year’s biggest criminal cases include:

  1. Two wealthy professionals who attempted to steal more than £60 million through a fraudulent tax avoidance scheme which claimed to invest in HIV research and conservation, and who were jailed for a total of 14 and a half years.
  2. A Berkshire-based gang that stole £34 million in VAT and laundered £87 million - the proceeds from selling illicit alcohol through bank accounts in Britain, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Dubai and other countries - who were jailed for more than 46 years.
  3. A fugitive £17 million tax fraudster who is finally behind bars after he was tracked down to his Prague hideaway and brought back to the UK to serve his eight-year sentence.
  4. Five people, including the former owners of a Sussex petrol station, who were sentenced for distributing and selling an estimated 4.8 million litres of illicit fuel to unsuspecting motorists including haulage companies across the South East.
  5. The jailing of a former Top Gear mechanic who helped father and son tax cheats escape from the UK via ferry and Eurotunnel prior to sentencing for a £1 million VAT fraud.
  6. Payback time for five wealthy tax fraudsters who were involved in one of the UK’s biggest tax frauds.
  7. An apparently jobless Londoner who enjoyed a sociable lifestyle of golf and exotic holidays by dodging tax on smuggled tobacco and was subsequently jailed.
  8. A charity treasurer who tried to steal more than £330,000 in a Gift Aid repayment fraud and spent the money on lavish cruise holidays.
  9. Our work with Interpol to take apart a pan-European crime gang involved in cigarette trafficking, drug smuggling and money laundering. 

As well as successful prosecutions, HMRC issued a record £7.8m fine to a money service business in West London for breaching the money laundering regulations. There was a major seizure in Northern Ireland, worth around £2m in lost duty and taxes, by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (of which HMRC is a part of) targeting the criminal activities of paramilitary organised crime groups.

HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service continues to bring in around £5bn a year through civil and criminal investigations.

Simon York, Director of the Fraud Investigation Service, said:

“The majority of people pay their taxes but there remains a hard core who have zero interest in playing by the rules.

“These prosecutions clearly show that we’ll relentlessly pursue those criminals who would try and cheat honest taxpayers by stealing money destined for vital public services.

“It means we’re increasingly taking on ever more complex frauds and well-resourced opponents, including tackling organised criminals who would otherwise undermine our economy and harm our communities.”

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.