A former police officer who admitted a leading role in the largest VAT fraud of its kind ever prosecuted has been jailed for 10 years and three months.
Judge Brian Forster called the conspiracy to cheat HMRC out of £365m that Nigel Cranswick directed “unprecedented”.
The hours of work taken to investigate it added up to 25 years.
The 47-year-old ex-South Yorkshire Police officer was a director of Ideas 2 Go, and despite its modest base in a Sheffield business park, he claimed it bought and sold £2.4bn of goods in just eight months from June 2005.
He has since admitted the firm’s trading, largely in mobile phones and computer software, was fictitious, and the aim was to generate paperwork in order to claim back a fortune in VAT from HMRC.
Judge Forster, sitting at Newcastle Crown Court, said: “This case concerned planned dishonesty resulting in the loss to the Revenue in the region of £365m.
“There were purported sales of billions of pounds.
“The prosecution rightly described the case as an unprecedented attack on the Revenue.
“The case has taken 25 man years to investigate.”
Cranswick was recruited by others for his role in the MTIC (missing trader intra-community) fraud. Also known as carousel fraud, it involves importing goods from other European Union states which are then sold through contrived business-to-business transactions.
At a hearing last month Cranswick, of Danby Road, Kiveton, Sheffield, admitted conspiracy to cheat HMRC.
The judge said the sentencing exercise was to punish the offending and deter others.
“The figures in this case are astonishing, they reveal the blatant nature of the fraud,” he said.
He told Cranswick: “You were immediately before this fraud a serving police officer. Almost unbelievably you retired from the police force and became the organiser of this fraudulent operation.
“You set up the company, you clearly accepted the direction of others – the organisers who are not before this court.”
Outside court, HMRC said Cranswick went “from rags to riches” soon after retiring, having been heavily in debt as a police officer.
A spokeswoman said: “He made lavish improvements to his home, rented a luxury apartment in the Spanish town of Marbella and paid for private schooling and tennis lessons for his children.”
Also sentenced after admitting conspiracy to cheat the Revenue were: Thomas Murphy, 27, of Dinnington, who was jailed for four and a half years; Cranswick’s brother-in-law, Darren Smyth, 42, from Beech Road, Maltby, and Brian Olive, 56, from Buttermere Close, Doncaster, who were sentenced to three years and four months each; and former housing officer Andrew Marsh, 28, from Sheffield, who was jailed for two years and eight months.
Cranswick’s 44-year-old sister, Clare Reid, married to Smyth, was handed a nine-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work after admitting two counts of false accounting.