Tax fraud investigators have recovered more than £1 billion from dozens of offenders in less than five years including the jailed owner of three shops in Brighton.
Peter Davis, 61, was jailed for tax fraud for four years – and investigators recovered almost £230,000 from him through a “confiscation order” after the sale of his villa in Marbella, in Spain.
Davis had a company called Formula 1 Teamwear Ltd and ran three shops in Brighton – Paddock Club, in Queen’s Road, another Paddock Club, in Bond Street, and Attitude, also in Bond Street.
He carried out a sophisticated scam involving his shops – he owned several others around the country and a website – selling Formula 1 merchandise, as well as an Italian restaurant in London.
Davis, who lived in Woodyates Road, in Lee, south east London, was jailed after he fraudulently claimed more than £960,000 in tax repayments to keep his outlets afloat.
But he walked away from failed businesses leaving rent and rates unpaid and customers out of pocket or needing to submit claims to their credit card providers.
After pleading guilty to evading VAT (value added tax) Davis was jailed at Southwark Crown Court in July 2018 by Judge Michael Hopmeier and banned from running a company for seven years.
Judge Hopmeier told Davis: “These were serious, sophisticated frauds carried out over a long period of time, by deliberate dishonesty and virtually from the start of trading.
“Offences of this nature – fraud on the revenue – are not victimless. Government and public services are funded by tax. This means hospitals, schools, roads and benefits are all paid for by tax.
“Stealing money from public funds means less money for these services.”
The £1 billion recouped from cash and assets seized in more than 1,200 separate cases by investigators includes
- gold bars worth £750,000 taken from a passenger at Manchester Airport
- £840,000 in cash seized from a residential garage in a London suburb as part of a £9.5 million tobacco fraud
- £1.7 million after a payroll fraudster was served with confiscation order to stump up the cash or face having four years added to his nine-and-a-half-year prison sentence
- gold jewellery and £180,000 cash seized from a safety deposit box in Birmingham
- £48,000 hidden among chicken nuggets in a freezer drawer in a house in Blackpool as part of a £16 million tobacco fraud
- two sets of poker winnings totalling £99,030 to satisfy an outstanding confiscation order
The experts recovering these huge sums from tax dodgers are part of the Fraud Investigation Service set up by Revenue and Customs in 2016, bringing together criminal and civil investigators.
Fraud Investigation Service director Simon York said: “To reach this £1 billion milestone in five years speaks volumes to the dedication, hard work and skill of FIS to recover the proceeds of crime from those who try to cheat the system.
“Whether it’s cash seizures, confiscation orders or account freezing orders, recovering these assets stops criminals bankrolling their lavish lifestyles and funding further crimes that harm our communities, such as drugs, guns and human trafficking.
“Crucially, this money goes back into the public purse, helping fund our vital services such as schools and hospitals.
“HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) deploys cutting-edge technology to investigate unexplained wealth and uncover hidden assets. Last year alone, we recouped more than £218 million from proceeds of crime.
“We are committed to recovering criminal assets and today the message is clear – crime doesn’t pay.”
After Brighton shop owner Peter Davis was jailed, Daren Cooley, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service, said: “Davis lied over and over again to steal taxpayers’ money to help fund his businesses and lifestyle.
“He foolishly thought he could carry on cheating the public by setting up new businesses built on a house of cards.
“Tax fraud isn’t a victimless crime. Not only is it stealing from UK taxpayers, it takes away money needed for the vital public services we all rely on.
“Anyone with information about tax fraud should report it to HMRC online or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”