A manhunt has been launched for high profile banker and fraudster Michael Bolton after he is believed to have gone on the run to Spain.
Mr Bolton, the former head of specialist lending at HBOS, was jailed in his absence on 4 March after swindling the taxman out of £130,000 and an arrest warrent has now been issued.
The 50-year-old from Shropshire carried out a VAT fraud while running companies called MB Consulting and Bolton Capital Structures.
Mr Bolton had kept the VAT he had charged Clayton Euro Risk Limited even though his firms were not VAT registered.
The invoices raised by his companies showed separate VAT registration numbers for each firm, but both of these numbers had been copied from other genuine businesses known to Mr Bolton.
He jumped bail, but was found guilty in his absence of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of VAT by a jury at Bristol Crown Court.
Mr Bolton was jailed for two years by Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter Crown Court and will be liable to immediate arrest and imprisonment if he returns to Britain.
Judge Cottle said he had billed two companies to the tune of £900,000.
Addressing an empty dock, he said: “You used bogus numbers, so you issued what were in effect forged documents. You provided a bogus explanation of having paid cash to a man called Paulo in Switzerland who had failed to pass it on to the revenue.
“In effect, you are now on the run and your exact whereabouts are not known, although it is believed that you may be in Spain. You are quite clearly a fraudster. This was carried out over a period of time with some sophistication.”
Before he jumped bail, Mr Bolton told investigators he had paid the money in cash to a mystery Swiss accountant called Paulo Greener, but there is no evidence that such a person ever existed.
Colin Spinks, assistant director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said: “This was deliberate attempt to defraud the public purse by Bolton.
“He chose to pocket the VAT he charged on invoices using different company identities.
Ian Fenny, prosecuting, said the fees charged by Bolton to his clients were “eye-watering”.
Mr Fenny said: “We always suspected he would not attend for his trial, but Bolton was given bail and unfortunately our cynicism was well founded.
“We have been unable to trace any assets in this country. Bolton is married to a Brazilian and may have property in Brazil. The revenue are also aware of contacts in Gibraltar, but we are unable to recover any realisable assets.
“This was a substantial fraud on the [Inland] revenue, but the money has clearly been dissipated and we cannot see any creative method of retrieving it.”