Director jailed over £1m VAT fiddle to fund ‘lavish’ lifestyle

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A COMPANY director fiddled £1.1m from the taxman to fund business ventures and a “lavish” lifestyle including cosmetic surgery for his wife and foreign holidays.

When suspicious VAT inspectors came to check on Gwynn Williams he confessed to the fraud and said some of the money had been invested in a gold mine in Utah.

Williams, 61, was the director of Hallmark Blades Ltd which traded in surgical equipment and was based at his home in Steven Crescent, Chapeltown, Sheffield.

He created false invoices to submit VAT refund claims, receiving as much as £30,000 a month from the scam.

He told HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigators that he had invested the money in a range of projects, including the gold mine, a Singapore fish farm, a US hedge fund and a company supplying generators to Iraq.

He told officers he was anticipating huge financial returns in the coming months and simply wanted to clear his conscience by repaying the VAT he stole.

Yesterday Williams was jailed for three years by a judge at Sheffield Crown Court.

HMRC assistant director for criminal investigation Peter Hollier said: “This was a prolonged and brazen attack on the UK tax system. Gwynn Williams seemed to think he could use taxpayers’ money to finance him through hard times and then expected to confess all, repay the money and walk away with a clear conscience. Tax fraud is a criminal offence and Williams is now paying the price for basing his business activity on fraud.”

At the fraud’s peak Williams was claiming almost £30,000 a month, which he then used to fund business deals. He claimed he began to feel guilty and wanted to confess so that he could repay the money.

He became worried after HMRC contacted him to arrange a VAT inspection. He confessed that he had delayed the visit numerous times and tried to scale down his claims in order to avoid detection.

He was arrested in September 2011 and later charged with fraud.

He pleaded guilty last month and was sentenced to three years in prison and disqualified from being a company director for seven years.

Judge Alan Goldsack QC said the crime was “born out of greed to fund a lavish lifestyle”.

The £1.1m has yet to be recovered but court action under the Proceeds of Crime Act is expected next year.