HMRC smashes £6.9m construction tax fraud

Grant Prior 6 years ago
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A £6.9m tax fraud centred on the construction industry has been busted by HMRC following a two-year investigation.

Three men will be sentenced next week at Maidstone Crown Court after being unanimously convicted of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue following a six week trial.

Millions were deducted from workers’ pay packets on major sites but never passed on to the Revenue.

Accountant Aquil Ahmed, 60, Victor Shearer, 43, a construction services company director; and Christopher Azzopardi, 36, a payroll administrator, all from Kent, defrauded HMRC of VAT, Income Tax, National Insurance Contributions and Construction Industry Scheme deductions over two-and-a-half years.

Ahmed operated a series of companies that offered an ‘umbrella’ pay-roll service to his clients who were mostly labour supply companies or recruitment agencies.  Azzopardi was Ahmed’s assistant.

Together they operated a sophisticated web of UK-registered companies and bank accounts through which they invoiced their clients for their workers wages, income taxes and VAT – but failed to pay taxes over to HMRC.

Between 2010 and 2012 Ahmed’s pay-roll companies fraudulently witheld £7m in PAYE, National Insurance contributions, Construction Industry Scheme deductions and VAT.

That money was laundered through a series of companies set up for the purpose in Gibraltar and Belize, and from there was transferred to bank accounts held in Jersey, Guernsey, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, South Africa, Dubai and Chile.

Shearer was the sole director of London based Leaner Logistics which supplied temporary and casual labour.

Leaner Logistics worked for a number of industry big names including a string of projects for Mace.

Shearer acted as a client of Ahmed’s pay-roll service and in return received a £1.2m share of the unpaid taxes over its two-year operation.

The rest of the proceeds were shared between Ahmed, his business partner, and the directors of his other client companies who had lent themselves to the fraud.

Chris Gill, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HM Revenue & Customs, said: “HMRC uncovered this complex and sophisticated fraud, operated through a multitude of UK and offshore companies.

“The fraudsters abused the tax system which is designed to ensure workers are paid correctly, and taxes are paid to HMRC.

“This investigation shows that regardless of the resources of those involved, no one is beyond our reach.”

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