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VAT-dodging director banned for 12 years 8 August 2013

The director of a company selling PlayStations has been disqualified from acting as a director for 12 years, following an investigation by The Insolvency Service.

Benjamin Harbour of Harbour Brands Ltd was banned for allowing the company to participate in transactions linked to a fraudulent tax-evasion scheme.

Paul Titherington, official receiver in the Service’s public interest unit, said: “Harbour Brands Limited was involved as a missing trader in a type of VAT fraud which has been costing the UK Exchequer billions of pounds a year for the past decade.

“This is not a victimless crime, the main impact being on honest tax payers and their families who are suffering the effects of funding shortages in healthcare, education and other front line services.”

Harbour’s disqualification means that he cannot promote, manage, or be a director of a limited company until 2025 and follows an investigation by a specialist team of The Insolvency Service, whose involvement commenced with the winding up of the company over unpaid VAT.

The court heard that Harbour Brands Ltd traded for four months in 2009 selling PlayStations wholesale and that during this short period, bought goods VAT free from other European countries.

It charged VAT to a single UK customer, without making provision for payment of VAT to HM Revenue & Customs (‘HMRC’).

The court also heard that the pricing of goods and the making of payments were clearly contrived – all known trades were priced at a gross mark-down in favour of this sole customer, with the VAT element offsetting this. Any remaining VAT monies were paid to overseas companies with no involvement with UK VAT.

While diverting all VAT monies, Mr Harbour signed false declarations to the customer that there were no reasonable grounds to suspect that the VAT monies on the goods supplied would go unpaid.

However, when HMRC called at the company’s trading address in July 2009 there was no sign of any business and no VAT Returns were submitted to HMRC.



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