The eight were part of a gang of eleven who had set up fictitious companies claiming to be trading in animal feeds, children’s clothing and fruit and vegetables. They also created business expenses associated with the non-existent companies to evade paying VAT to HM Revenue & Customs.
The gang registered 15 bogus companies between 1998 and 2004 across Merseyside, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Scotland creating fictitious sales transactions and invoices for zero-rated goods in order to evade paying VAT whilst pocketing reclaimed VAT for fake business costs.
The three self-employed financial advisers helped the gang members buy properties and in some cases helped to complete fake invoices.
The gang used the money they made from the fraud to invest in property portfolios to fund their lifestyles.
The eight individuals sentenced today were: John Wright, 46, sentenced to six years jail; Gary Edgington, 55, sentenced to four years, and Neil Banks, 24, sentenced to 240 hours unpaid work, all from Cheshire; Peter Wood, 52, from Manchester sentenced to four years eight months in jail,Michael North, 70, from Stockport sentenced to 15 months in jail; Diane Bellingham, 53, sentenced to 12 months jail and George Duncan, 45, sentenced to 32 months, both from Scotland, and Emma Vasey, 35, from Washington, Tyne and Wear sentenced to 18 months jail.
Edgington, Wood and North are all financial advisers. The other defendants are due to reappear in court at a later date.
HMRC assistant director criminal investigations in the North West Mike O’Grady says: “Those sentenced today include three self-employed financial advisers who opened bank accounts to facilitate the frauds, helped with the purchase of properties for gang members using the money obtained from the fraud and in some circumstances completed false invoices.
“They abused their positions of trust to line their own pockets and those of their co-conspirators and the sentences handed out by the court today reflect how seriously this crime is taken.
“VAT fraud is a serious crime which diverts vital income from the UK’s public services into the pockets of career criminals and HMRC will do everything in its power to put a stop to this.
“The gang used the fraud money to invest in property portfolios and fund their lifestyles. The total VAT fraud amounted to about £1.9m and those jailed now face confiscation hearings to recover monies and assets involved.”