The mastermind behind a £54m VAT missing trader fraud involving mobile phones has been jailed for 15 years following a six-year investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Emmanuel Hening, who has dual Belgian/French nationality and was extradited from France in December 2005, was found guilty on three country of missing trader fraud at Worcester Crown Court this week. His sentence represents the longest ever handed down by a British court for this type of crime.
He was described by Judge McCreath as ‘the guiding hand’ behind the multi-million pound fraud, which has seen an eight-strong gang sentenced to 38.5 years between them.
Chris Harrison, Deputy Director, Investigation for HMRC said: "This was not some kind of victimless crime, but organised fraud on a massive scale perpetrated by criminals all bent on making fast and easy profits at the expense of the British taxpayer. This was theft of revenue needed to fund our country's public services. Missing trader fraud is not merely a paper fraud but often features links to other forms of criminal activity. This case is a further example of our determination and success in bringing to justice the criminals behind this type of fraud. The sentence should send out a clear message to others who may contemplate such criminal activity."
Judge McCreath said: "This case involves fraud against the Revenue on a massive scale amounting in total to a Revenue loss in excess of £50m described accurately... as an orchestrated attack on the UK VAT system."
Hening was sentenced alongside two accomplices, one from the West Midlands
and one from Wales, in December. A further two members of the gang from the West
Midlands and two from Lancashire were sentenced at an earlier trial. An eighth
defendant, a woman from Birmingham, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
In sentencing Hening, the Judge commented: "You are responsible, in my judgment, for the genesis of the fraud, through your control over the foreign importers and your control over the UK missing traders, and because of the reality that the evaded VAT was paid to you, into your bank accounts."
As in all successful prosecutions, confiscation proceedings are being pursued in order to strip the guilty of their assets, illegally derived from the proceeds of these frauds.
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