Members of a crime gang that set up an international tax evasion scam have been jailed.
Led by 37-year old Michael Bostock from Penzance Way, Stafford, the gang used a company International Electrical Distribution Ltd to fraudulently avoid huge VAT payments by forging paperwork in order to make HMRC think the deals were exempt.
Bostock was jailed for five years, while the three men he recruited to help him were also given custodial sentences.
Mohammed Shabir Hussain, 41, from London Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme was jailed for four years, while Michael Davies, 47 of De Haviland Drive, Stone, was sentenced to three years. Nicolas Richmond, 43 of High Street, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire was also jailed for three years.
While Michael Bexon, 56, of Holly Meadow, Leigh, Jamiel Hussain, 35, from Lamotte Close, Fenton, were both given suspended jail terms of 12 and nine months respectively and told to carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work.
Peter Paul Cook, 61, Spinney Close, Endon and Terence Benson, 63 of no fixed address were each hailed for two years in May 2010.
The gang had managed to pocket around £1.5 million in VAT in under 12 months before being arrested in January 2008 following a 14-month operation.
Using the business, International Electrical Distributors Ltd, they had prepared forged invoices and shipping documents in an attempt to make HMRC believe the business was buying and selling large amounts of scrap metal from and to companies in Cyprus and Ireland, with the material travelling via Belgium and Austria.
As the material was supposedly travelling via European countries, it was zero rated for VAT, but the reality was that the metal never left Britain and was being sold to companies in Essex, Wales and Yorkshire.
These customers were paying VAT on the purchases, with it then kept by Bostock and his gang using the forged documents as evidence that the material had been sent before.
It also did not pay VAT on its own metal purchases by pretending these had come from abroad.
HMRC assistant director for criminal investigation Gary Lampon said: “The gang, led by Bostock, operated a network of companies that supposedly traded internationally in large quantities of scrap metal. They created false paperwork and claimed to move consignments of nickel, tin and copper between UK scrap metal yards and later from Austria to the UK, in order to claim back VAT they weren’t entitled to.
“The sophistication of the fraud led to a lengthy and complex investigation but we will not be deterred from pursuing those behind such crimes in order to bring them before the courts. We will now be seeking to reclaim the proceeds of the crime.”
Around £193,000 in cash was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and has since been returned to public finances. Confiscation proceedings are ongoing.
On sentencing at Warwick Crown Court Judge Ian Tomlinson said: “The conspiracy was fraudulent from the outset and professionally planned. The defendants were living beyond their means, living the high-life at the expense of the taxpayer.”