A trio of men from Kent were recently jailed for stealing almost seven million pounds in taxes to fund a spending spree on foreign properties and luxury cars.
Aquil Ahmed, 60, an accountant, and Victor Shearer, 43, a construction services company director, ran the two-and-a-half year con through a complex network of companies and offshore bank accounts, evading payments for VAT, PAYE and the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).
Christopher Azzopardi, 37, a payroll administrator, was hired by Ahmed, to calculate the payroll for his clients through a series of various ‘keeper’ companies. Azzopardi charged his clients tax but none of the deductions ever made their way to HMRC.
Instead, Azzopardi bankrolled his co-conspirator Ahmed, who used the money to buy a plethora of properties in the UK, US and Turkey. In addition, the illegal funds paid for Ahmed’s trips to Dubai, the Monaco Grand Prix and even bought a Bentley Continental GT.
Shearer supplied a host of short-term contractors for his and Ahmed’s company, Leaner Logistics, and used a ‘revolving door’ policy for employees in order to elude HMRC. However, with the help of Gibraltan authorities, HMRC uncovered the scam and prosecuted the three men.
The jury at Maidstone Crown Court heard that Azzopardi was in debt and being paid £60,000 (tax free) from Ahmed – twice the normal bookkeeper’s salary.
After a six-week trial, the trio were sentenced to a combined 19 years behind bars, with Azzopardi receiving the shortest sentence of four years.
Chris Gill, assistant director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said:
“This investigation shows that regardless of the resources of those involved, or how hard they try to hide their crime, no one is beyond our reach.”