The boss of a firm which refurbished ships for some of the world’s largest cruise lines has been jailed for VAT and tax fraud.

Christopher Rogers, from Southampton, stole more than £1.7 million of taxpayers’ money to prop up his failing businesses and maintain a lavish lifestyle.

He was jailed for five and a half years following an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs.

He was arrested in September 2013 after an investigation into his tax affairs revealed that he continued to submit VAT repayment claims totalling £1,639,368 despite his company ceasing to trade in 2010.

Investigators found that despite taking an annual salary of more than £125,000 during the company’s legitimate trading years, Rogers had not paid any income tax since 2008 and owed HMRC more than £63,000.

Financial investigators also discovered that Rogers had enjoyed an opulent lifestyle during the period of the fraud.

He rented homes in some of Southampton’s most sought-after areas, drove a Mercedes 4×4, owned a selection of expensive watches and a large wine collection and bought a yacht.

Following his arrest Rogers commented that he had ‘been waiting for this for three years’. He told HMRC that he had ‘only’ committed the fraud to support his other businesses and repay his debts, but admitted that the repayment claims were false and that he had not declared any income at all since 2008 despite receiving money from his businesses.

Rogers was later charged with fraudulently reclaiming VAT between July 2010 and August 2013 and fraudulently evading income tax between April 2008 and October 2010.

He was jailed for a total of five and a half years by at Southampton Crown Court yesterday (Monday) after pleading guilty an earlier hearing.

Rogers was sentenced to four and half years for the VAT fraud and a year for the income tax evasion. He was disqualified from being a company director for 10 years. HMRC will seek to recover the proceeds of his crimes.

HMRC assistant director, criminal investigation, John Cooper, said: “Rogers admitted to lying on his VAT returns and to making false repayment claims.He used the cash to prop up his other failing businesses and contributed nothing to the public purse for years; shamelessly expecting taxpayers to fund a lifestyle that most people can only dream of.

“I hope this case sends out a clear message – crime does not pay; he will now have time to reflect on his actions, behind bars.

“Fraud of this nature robs the UK economy of vital funding and we appeal to local people and businesses to join us in the fight against crime and encourage anyone with information on tax evasion to contact us.”