£55m VAT fraudster jailed for 11 years
Written byKIM BRISCOE
Clive Saunders, 44, of Wood Lane, has also been disqualified from being a company director for 15 years because of the scam, which involved the avoidance of tax on mobile phones.
He was convicted by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court of two counts of conspiracy to defraud the public revenue between 2001 and 2002.
Three other men, Phillip Hague, of Smallthorne, Charles Hackney and Michael West, both of Colwyn Bay, were also each convicted of one count of the same charge.
Hague and Hackney were sentenced to five years, while West received four years.
The four were involved in a Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) VAT fraud, which involved importing phones into the UK without paying VAT.
Euan Stewart, deputy director of criminal investigation for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said: "Missing trader fraud is a complex, sophisticated attack on the revenue carried out by organised criminals and the sentences handed down today reflect the seriousness of the crime.
"Tackling MTIC fraud is HMRCs top fraud priority, and we will actively pursue all those believed to be involved, and seek not only prison sentences but also to recover their criminally derived assets, wherever those may be in the world."
This type of VAT fraud is estimated to have cost the UK exchequer between £1.1 billion and £1.9 billion in stolen VAT revenues in 2004-05.
In its simplest form, this type of fraud involves setting up a company and obtaining a VAT registration number in the UK for the purposes of purchasing goods free from VAT in another EU member state.
The bogus company then sells the goods at a price including VAT, and then vanishes or closes without paying the tax due.
The goods most commonly associated with this fraud are mobile phones and computer chips.
Saunders is already serving a five-year prison term for his role in an incident at a KFC restaurant in Stoke, which saw one man shot and another beaten unconscious.
He was convicted of conspiring to cause violent disorder in 2004.
All four men will now face confiscation hearings to determine any assets they must forfeit.