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You're nicked! 150 years in jail for 2012's biggest tax cheats

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has highlighted some of the key convictions it secured over tax evasion in 2012. The 32 tax cheats listed here have received a total of 155 years and 10 months behind bars.

by Amy Rowe, Alex Steger on Jan 04, 2013 at 07:41

Phony sales

Operation Inertia saw the highly active taxman secure 66 years in the slammer for a string of scammers after it called time on a complex VAT fraud based on the sale of mobile phones.

The gang, led by ringleader Dilawar Ravjani who was given 17 years imprisonment - the longest sentence to date for this type of fraud - claimed to have sold four million mobile phones worth £1.7 billion.

However, in many cases the phones did not exist, including 250,000 which had not been launched in the UK. In an attempt to make the trade appear legitimate, over 5,700 fake business transactions were created to claim large amounts of VAT.

The gang created false paperwork relating to the alleged importation, sale and export of phones. The phones were purported to have been sold on in the UK, with VAT added on. The gang would then claim that the phones had been exported back to EU countries. The exporter would then claim a VAT repayment based on the VAT alleged to have been paid on the purchase of the goods – although this was never paid in the first place.

In 2012 four of the 11 fraudsters were sentenced to 10 years and six months' jail.

No smoke without fire

Operation Hippolamp (no? us neither) saw HMRC and criminal investigators stub out a potentially huge scale tobacco fraud.

The criminal gang behind the attempt were sentenced to a total of 13 years and one month in prison. They set up a factory capable of making up to 625 million counterfeit cigarettes and five million pouches of fake hand rolling tobacco a year.

The plot, worth over £131 million per annum in lost revenue, was foiled when HMRC criminal investigators swooped and closed down the fully equipped cigarette factory in Chesterfield, before it went into production.

A problem shared

Roy Faichney, former Vantis Tax managing director, was jailed for four years for his part in a £70 million tax fraud in October last year.

Faichney was jailed nine months after his colleague David Perrin received an 18-month sentence for his part in the fraud.

The pair used a network of finance professionals to advise more than 600 wealthy clients to buy shares, worth a few pence each, in four companies they had set up.

Faichney listed the companies on the Channel Islands stock exchange and paid people money from an offshore account to buy and sell the shares simply to inflate their price.

The shareholders then donated 329 million shares to a number of ‘unsuspecting’ registered charities and tried to claim £70 million tax relief on a total of £213 million of income and company profits.

This was based on the shares being worth up to £1 each, when in fact they were still worth the pennies they were originally bought for.

HMRC said Faichney acted with Perrin to extract cash through a Jersey bank account to take his share in the £4.5 million profit made from the scheme.

Rough diamond

A jeweller who attempted to dodge more than £7 million in tax by smuggling gold into the UK from Dubai was jailed for nine years. Chaudary Ali attempted to duck under the radar by moving the gold through Frankfurt over a two-year period. HMRC dubbed its probe into the activities Operation Vara.

In the drink

The taxman’s Operation Rust saw this four-strong criminal gang jailed for 21 years and three months for one of the biggest ever alcohol smuggling frauds uncovered in the UK.

The gang bought beer, wine and spirits from bonded warehouses in France and imported it duty free into the UK. Once safely through customs, the alcohol was illegally diverted to locations around the UK where it was sold on without duty being added.

The scam was worth £50 million a year in unpaid duty and VAT and allowed the gang members to spend recklessly on high performance cars and luxury properties throughout Europe.

Carbon offsetting

These chaps racked up 35 years in jail between them after being found guilty of a whopping £38 million VAT scam involving the fraudulent selling of carbon credits.

Sandeep Singh Dosanjh, Navdeep Singh Gill and Ranjot Singh Chahal set up a chain of bogus companies to trade in EU emissions allowances. Since HMRC's Operation Tulipbox the law has been changed.

Toy story

A gang that tried to pass off more than 20 million cigarettes as babies’ toys was jailed last year for a total of 26 years and six months.

Paul O’Meara, Robert Doran, Patrick Gray, Martin Cleland, Mark Sadgrove, Wayne Stock and Matthew Neale were arrested at a UK warehouse after smuggling tobacco into the country from Dubai. The total duty evaded was estimated as £3.3 million.

Smokin’ hot

HMRC named this crackdown on tax evasion as ‘tousle 95.’ While we can only speculate as to what this alludes to, we do know that two men were jailed for their role in a plot to smuggle around 24 million counterfeit cigarettes. Investigators were keeping a close eye on the gang and managed to catch them red-handed as five million cigs were delivered to an industrial unit in Leicester in July 2009. Andreas Apostolides, Costas Georgiou and John Ian Mason got 12 years between them.

Going platinum

Operation Snowbank saw four men jailed after they tried to evade over £4.5 million in VAT due on platinum trading. Mohammed Shabir Karim, Imran Bhatti, Kamran Bhatti and Raymond Bowden got 22 years and six months for their roles in importing platinum ingots from Italy and selling them on without paying the VAT.

Smells suspicious

Garlic may put off fanged bloodsucking beasts of the night, but it has no such power against tax inspectors.

Operation Reinforce saw Murugasan Natarajan, who is currently on the run, handed six years behind bars, for duty fraud.

The smuggler claimed he was importing ginger - which is free of duty - but HMRC investigators discovered the containers he used were transported at the wrong temperature and found more than 7,000 kilograms of garlic.

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