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£161 million VAT fraud leads Welsh sisters directly to jail

£161 million VAT fraud leads Welsh sisters directly to jail

Two Welsh sisters were recently jailed for three and a half years after attempting to defraud HMRC out of £161 million.

The Colwyn Bay women funded lavish lifestyles by making false claims to the Revenue, including a VAT repayment scam.

The women were arrested in January 2009 after HMRC launched an investigation into the recruitment business the sisters claimed to run. In fact, they had set up fictional limited companies, which they then registered for VAT purposes, simply as a means of reclaiming VAT.

In addition to the fraudulent VAT claims, the sisters received tax credits worth £120,000 over a period of 5 years. However, Revenue investigators discovered that although Roberta Vaughan Owen claimed to be self-employed, she had also been receiving incapacity benefit since 2002.

The other sister, Andrea, attempted to get bridging loans worth £751,000 by claiming she earned between £18,000 and £22,000 a month and both of the women attempted to defraud insurance companies. Their final fraudulent act came in December 2008 when they attempted to reclaim the £161 million in VAT from HMRC.

The assistant director of HMRC, Simon De Kayne, said the sisters funded their lifestyle by spinning a complex web of deceit and fraud. They carried out a variety of criminal acts culminating in the £161 million VAT scam. However, the Revenue intends to show them that crime does not pay and will take steps to relieve them of their ill-gotten gains.

He went on to explain that HMRC scrutinises claims very thoroughly and since the department implemented a new error and fraud strategy, it has stopped tax credit payments worth more than £1 billion.

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: Gaol interior by State Records NSW

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