Investments 

Jail for £100m investment scheme tax fraudsters

Jail for £100m investment scheme tax fraudsters

Five men have been jailed at Southwark Crown Court for their role in an attempt to commit a £100m tax fraud.

The defendants were jailed on 10 November.

Investors believed they would receive significant tax benefits through the "green" investment scheme, which involved the reforestation of large areas of land in Brazil and China.

A total of 730 investors joined the scheme, tempted by an offer of an immediate large return - a £20,000 investment would result in a successful claim for £32,000 in tax relief.

A number of companies were set up by the defendants around the world and all were marketed on the basis they were independent of each other  In fact they were all under control of the defendants, who were cycling cash between them to create an illusion of lending.

Tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands and Nevis were used to ensure secrecy.

The scheme attempted to deceive HMRC into believing that the overall enterprise was much larger than it was, and into granting tax relief that was not due.

The schemes generated apparent 'losses' of £269.8m which they claimed was spent on research and development.

This put HMRC at risk of losing approximately £107m in tax while the defendants siphoned off large sums of money through off-shore trusts to then spend on expensive properties in the UK, Dubai and Australia.

The defendants lied about the nature of their companies - first to HMRC and professional financial advisers and then to a tax tribunal. 

The trial began in February 2017, lasting for nine months.  

David.Thorpe@ft.com

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