Self-styled submarine captain cheated taxman of £1m for champagne lifestyle

Richard William, with his reclipa U-boat at Thwait Mills Museum
Richard William, with his reclipa U-boat at Thwait Mills Museum
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A SELF-STYLED submarine captain defrauded the taxman of more than £1m which he splashed on boats, champagne and “behaving stupidly”, a court heard.

‘Captain’ Richard Williams set up a string of bogus disability equipment companies which he then used to claim huge sums of VAT that he had never paid.

Williams, 55, was arrested in January 2012 by tax inspectors on board his mock German U-boat, which he set up as a visitor attraction at Clarence Dock in Leeds.

Manchester Crown Court heard yesterday the customised barge, which he spent tens of thousands of pounds converting to look like a German war vessel, had been bought with some of the cash. Dominic Thomas, for Williams, said: “[The money] has gone on a dissipated lifestyle... travelling around marinas, buying boats, drinking champagne and generally behaving stupidly and irresponsibly.”

The court heard between 2005 and 2010 Williams and his then partner, Laurel Howarth, from Blackpool, set up a succession of companies supposedly selling equipment and furniture for people with disabilities, but no such goods were ever sold.

They created false invoices and submitted fraudulent claims to HM Revenue and Customs for VAT repayments totalling £1.017m.

Williams, who was born Steven Howarth, changed his name by deed poll to Richard Williams – and adopted the title ‘Captain’ – after meeting a man of that name, in order to continue the fraud.

Richard Orme, prosecuting, said: “Richard Williams has, for a period of almost five years ... systematically cheated the public revenue out of just over £1m.”

At the same time, Williams and Howarth were also claiming state benefits.

The pair are due to be sentenced today.