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VAT fraudster faces eight more years 22 March 2011

Craig Johnson, 37, who was originally convicted of a £20m missing trader VAT fraud, was due be released early from a 12.5 year jail term next month but will remain behind bars after repaying only £4m.

Johnson was the principal player in the VAT fraud, heading up an organised crime gang that stole millions from the taxpayer via a complex mobile phone scam. HMRC ran three parallel investigations on the case.

The investigations led to jail sentences, totalling 133 years. for 21 serious career criminals over their part in a £138m fraud.

Johnson was forced to sell his stately home, Meaford Hall in Staffordshire, along with three further UK properties, performance cars including the Ferrari and a Bentley and diamond jewellery.

Robert Alder, assistant director for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), said:  “This will send the strongest message yet to criminals that even in prison they cannot hide from our actions to reclaim their criminal profits.

“We are determined that this money will be restored to the nation’s finances in what is one of the largest confiscation order ever secured in the UK.”

The fraud involved the import of mobile phones from various EU countries VAT free, or a paperwork trail which suggested that imports had taken place.

It was likely, in many instances, that the goods described in the documents did not even exist.

The paperwork showed the goods would then be sold more cheaply, but with VAT added, through a chain of colluding companies known as buffers.

Sham invoices would be issued and cnce the goods had been sold on a number of times they would be exported back to EU countries.

This was facilitated by a corrupt freight forwarding company who provided apparent independent confirmation of the legitimacy of the trade, along with false paperwork on the transport of the alleged goods.

The exporter would then claim a VAT credit from HMRC for the VAT paid on the purchase of the goods.

Johnson, of Meaford, Stone, Staffordshire, was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday September 21.



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